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Maryland Lawmakers Considering Bills That Could Affect Housing, Transit-Oriented Development

Maryland lawmakers are halfway through the first legislative session of Gov. Wes Moore's term, and they are debating a series of bills that could have significant consequences for the state's commercial real estate industry. 

The Maryland General Assembly has passed the halfway mark of this year's 90-day legislative session.

Several bills working their way through the General Assembly could affect new development, including proposals around electric vehicle charging station requirements, transit-oriented development grants and off-street parking mandates. 

Legislators are also debating an increase in the minimum wage that could impact businesses across the state. And efforts to redevelop Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course and another horse racing venue in Anne Arundel County are at risk of losing state funding as costs have risen and lawmakers are debating a new budget. 

Real Estate's Priorities

The Maryland Building Industry Association, one of the most active organizations representing industry interests in shaping policy, is focused on bills that could potentially slow the supply of new housing.  

MBIA CEO Lori Graf said amid a housing crisis in the state, lawmakers must refrain from passing laws that impede the ability to deliver more residential units. 

"Any bills or legislation that would promote more housing we're supportive of," Graf said. 

In particular, the MBIA is monitoring a bill that would alter Maryland's Forest Conservation Act in a way that could affect construction. The bill, Senate Bill 526/House Bill 723, changes the act's definition of forestland and its goal from achieving "no net loss of forest" to increasing state acreage covered by forest or tree canopy.  

The bill's fiscal note — an independent analysis conducted by state staffers — concludes it would "likely have a meaningful effect on various small businesses, including those engaging in construction activity." The analysis projects if the bill becomes law, it will increase construction costs. However, it may grow business for reforestation services firms like nurseries, landscapers and consultants.

Graf stopped short of saying the bill would hamper building new housing in Maryland. But she said she is working with its sponsors to craft a bill that protects forested areas without hurting builders and developers.  

"We don't feel it should ever be a choice between housing and the environment," she said.  

Sen. Sarah Elfreth, the Senate bill's sponsor, told the chamber's Education, Energy and Environment Committee last week she expects to amend the bill based on stakeholder feedback. Those changes include pushing back the implementation to July 2024. But she warned against delaying its implementation too long.

"If we go too far out in implementation date ... we're going to have a lot of developers try to grandfather in projects that we're then going to be dealing with for the next 20 years," said Elfreth, who represents Anne Arundel County

The MBIA is also working with state lawmakers on shaping bills requiring developers to provide charging stations for electric vehicles at any new residential project. 

One such bill is Senate Bill 477/House Bill 830. The legislation requires builders of new homes or multifamily units or those undertaking significant property renovations to include a dedicated parking space with fully installed charging equipment in each garage, carport or driveway. 

In the case of new townhouses and multifamily residential buildings that only provide communal off-street parking, the builder must include at least one parking space with charging equipment for every 25 residential units.  

Graf said that with more electric vehicles coming onto the road, it is clear builders and developers need to provide charging stations. However, she said the state needs to help builders include electric vehicle charging without substantially adding to the cost of new housing.

"We don't want housing to be expensive," Graf said. "We want everyone to afford it."

To that end, she said the organization supports legislation like House Bill 7, which extends Maryland's Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Rebate Program. The legislation stretches the state rebate program to 2027 and boosts rebates issued annually to $2M a year. 

Graf said that adding charging stations to meet future demand is an expensive proposition, especially for multifamily housing, so it is crucial that Maryland offer incentives to make it cheaper for builders to include those stations in developments.  

"We've got to put the infrastructure in, but it's expensive," Graf said.  

Maryland lawmakers are still pursuing several bills with potential impact on the commercial real estate industry.

Other Noteworthy Bills For CRE

Senate Bill 151/House Bill 12: Del. Jazz Lewis and Sen. Malcolm Augustine, who represent Prince George's County, filed bills in their respective chambers that would create a capital grant and loan program to entice more transit-oriented development. 

The bill would require the governor to include funds in the annual budget to maintain a fund balance of $10M at the start of each fiscal year, according to the bill's fiscal note. 

It is projected the bill will increase Transportation Trust Fund expenditures by $358K in fiscal year 2024. If passed, the proposal would create a mandated appropriation of about $10M annually starting in fiscal year 2025. 

The bill would create a "meaningful" impact and "significantly" benefit firms involved in transit-oriented development, the fiscal note said. 

This is the second time Lewis and Augustine, Democrats who hold leadership positions, have introduced the bill.

Status: The Senate Bill received a committee hearing on Jan. 25. The House of Delegates bill received a committee hearing on Feb. 2.


House Bill 181/Senate Bill 197: While office owners and brokers wrestle with bringing employees back to the office, Del. Vaughn Stewart of Montgomery County introduced legislation providing incentives to companies to study a four-day workweek.

The bill proposed giving companies with at least 30 employees up to $750K in payroll tax credits to share data with the state on the impact of shifting employees to a four-day workweek.  

Status: The bill received a hearing in the House, but it has now been withdrawn by its sponsors in both chambers, Maryland Matters reported Monday evening


House Bill 819: Delegates from Montgomery and Prince George's counties introduced legislation preventing the Montgomery County Council from mandating off-street parking for residential developments built within a quarter-mile of Metro and Purple Line stops. 

Status: The House Environment and Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing for that chamber’s bill version at 1 p.m. Thursday. 


Senate Bill 371/House Bill 338: Baltimore lawmakers Sen. Antonio Hayes and Del. Regina Boyce introduced legislation defining a "commercial use" to include multifamily buildings in a waterfront commercial zoning district within a half-mile radius of a commuter rail station.

According to the bill's fiscal and policy note, the term "commercial use" isn't currently included in the Land Use Article of the Maryland Code covering zoning in Baltimore. Adding the wording and including specific multifamily projects in its definition allows Baltimore's mayor and city council greater authority to regulate items like a project's height, off-street parking requirements and the building's use.  

Status: Senate Bill 371 and House Bill 338 received committee hearings on Feb. 21. 

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore

Prominent State Issues

Moore's proposal to tie future increases in the minimum wage to inflation has legislators from his party balking at the proposal, according to Maryland Matters

House Bill 549 and Senate Bill 555 were introduced at the behest of Moore’s administration. The bill would increase Maryland's minimum wage by $1.25 to $15 an hour by Oct. 10. Under the current law, the minimum wage wouldn't rise to $15 an hour until 2025.

However, the part of the bill that has caused the most concern for Democrats in the General Assembly, according to Maryland Matters, is the proposal tying future increases in the minimum wage to inflation.  

“I think delegates are generally concerned," House Economic Matters Committee Chair C.T. Wilson of Charles County told Maryland Matters. "We’re here to make the tough decisions. Putting on CPI takes that decision away from us."


Sharp cost increases have endangered plans to redevelop Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course, home to the famed Preakness Stakes, according to Maryland Matters

Roughly three years ago, the Maryland General Assembly passed a plan to provide state funds for redeveloping both horse racing venues. At the time, the state expected the projects to cost a combined $375M. That price tag has nearly doubled, according to Maryland Matters.

Legislators are hammering out a state budget and are considering withholding $17M for the projects. Lawmakers previously earmarked those funds to pay the debt on bonds supporting the redevelopment of those sites. According to Maryland Matters, the Department of Legislative Services recommended lawmakers withhold those funds to voice their displeasure with the lack of progress on those projects. 

UPDATE, MARCH 7, 2 P.M. ET: This story has been updated with the news that the sponsors of the four-day workweek legislation withdrew the bill.