On Tuesday, legislators and members of the public gathered at The Graduate in Annapolis, MD, to talk about key legislative issues like affordable housing, the budget, environmental challenges, and transportation. Despite the snow, people packed the ballroom to hear Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Jake Day and Chesapeake Neighbors Board Chair Jonathon Rondeau speak.
Together, Day and Rondeau discussed challenges surrounding affordable housing throughout the State and the need for creative solutions. Rondeau touted Chesapeake Neighbors, where he is the board chair, as an example of a successful developer taking an innovative approach to affordable housing.
“The affordable housing crisis isn’t new,” said Rondeau. “The pandemic just exacerbated the problem.”
No community in Maryland has enough affordable housing to support the needs of its residents, and low-and moderate-income renters are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing. Low-income renters are already more likely to have increased stress levels from working multiple jobs, navigating disability, raising children solo, and unreliable transportation. They tend to lack access to generational wealth, have a disproportionate amount of debt, and many come from historically marginalized populations. Millennials and Gen Z are slower than previous generations to enter home ownership. With salaries stagnating, more college graduates burdened with debt, and rising inflation, the demand for high-quality, affordable rentals is high.
Rondeau elaborated on the work Chesapeake Neighbors is doing throughout the region.
“Chesapeake Neighbors believes the future of affordable housing is scattered-site, small-scale, mixed-income developments,” he said. “In practice, that looks like dividing a single-family home into multiple units or building additional structures on a subdividable lot. By dispersing housing throughout different neighborhoods, residents from various backgrounds, income levels, and demographics can live side by side, creating truly diverse communities.”
Rondeau also elaborated on the challenges to developing housing in this fashion, highlighting that a significant barrier is the lack of access to funding. State funds prioritize larger developers, something Rondeau would like to see changed.
Secretary Day agreed to the need to develop innovative solutions to tackling the affordable housing crisis and has put together an extensive agenda he plans to pursue during the legislative session.
Attendees left with a better understanding of the challenges facing our community, as well as encouragement that organizations like Chesapeake Neighbors are working with the State to find creative solutions to develop more affordable housing.