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The Details of a Bill That Would Transform Single-Family Zoning in Maryland

by Nena Perry-Brown

Maryland House Delegate Vaughn Stewart formally introduced the Modest Home Choices Act of 2020 on Thursday, a bill which, as previewed last month in CityLab, would allow middle housing to be constructed on lots currently zoned for single homes. The bill would amend the state code to require certain census tracts allow construction of triplexes on residential-zoned lots that currently support only detached single-family homes.

The census tracts subject to this bill fit one of three definitions:

  • A "high opportunity" tract, where the median household income is at least twice the area median income;
  • A "jobs-rich" residential tract, where there are at least 5,000 jobs per square mile;
  • A "transit-rich" residential tract, where parcels are all within one mile of an existing train station or within a quarter-mile of a "high-quality bus corridor" where a bus runs on an average interval of ten minutes during weekday rush hour. 

In the latter two categories, the median household income must also be equal to or greater than the area median income. Individual jurisdictions would be able to regulate how middle housing is designed or configured on single-family lots, as long as those regulations don't present a deterrent to the development.

If passed and signed into law, the bill would take effect this October, and jurisdictions would be required to adopt regulations in accordance with the bill by October 2022. Jurisdictions would be able to seek an extension if it is found that their water, sewer, or transportation services are "significantly deficient". The state's Department of Housing and Community Development would also have to create a "model middle housing ordinance" by April 2021.

The bill is one in a suite of bills Delegate Stewart is putting forth as part of his "Homes for All" package, which also includes strengthened tenant protections and a proposal for social housing. Relatedly, a statewide upzoning bill got the chop in Virginia last month. 

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the-details-of-a-bill-that-would-transform-zoning-maryland/16436

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