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Reflections 1967: County law drafted on housing

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Published on: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday, January 19, 1967

County Law on Housing Drafted by Rights Unit

A broad open occupancy ordinance covering all housing in the county is expected to get final approval from the Human Relations Commission later this month.

The bill, which will not be made public until the Jan. 30 meeting of the commission, will be forwarded to the County Council shortly afterwards.

Scope of coverage in the bill under consideration was expended substantially in a closed meeting Jan. 3 of the full commission with a housing subcommittee.

As revised, the bill bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin in the sale, rental, leasing or financing of any housing in Montgomery County.

Minor Exemptions

It exempts only the rental of room s in an owner-occupied home and religious institutions.

The original subcommittee draft, drawn up by three commissioners and nine citizens designated by county organizations, covered only apartments. It exempted single-family and semi-detached houses as directed by the commission when it set up the housing subcommittee.

Members of the subcommittee, however, recommended that the scope of the ordinance be broadened to include more than apartments.

One commissioner indicated the bill was given more muscle because “now we have a County Council in line with our thinking – they said they were for a stronger Human Relations Commission so we felt now was the time to come up with this.”

Vote Unanimous

Revisions in the original draft were made by the unanimous vote of the commissioners at the closed work sessions. The Rev. William B. Adams, Mrs. Julia Brueggeman and Mrs. Bebe Petrou were absent.

Mr. Adams and Mrs. Brueggeman have said they will voice objections to the proposed ordinance at the Jan. 30 meeting.  Both have been outspoken critics of open occupancy legislation, which they term attempts at “forced housing.”

Mrs. Petrou noted this week an ordinance is long overdue, but added she will question specific provisions in the proposed bill at the upcoming meeting.

She expressed concern over penalties and enforcement procedures, pointing out the majority should not be harmed in an attempt to protect minorities.

Like Rockville’s

The revised ordinance is comparable in coverage to the comprehensive proposal adopted by Rockville’s Human Relations Commission and submitted to the mayor and council.

That ordinance is one of three bills being considered by the City Council. Public hearings on the bills were held Tuesday and Wednesday.

City officials indicated action by the county commission could affect the decision by the mayor and council in the ordinance they adopt.

If city heads can look to the county to follow their actions with a similar bill, they might enact a stronger ordinance than if Rockville appeared to be alone in adopting open housing laws, one spokesman noted.

Fines Compared

The bill approved tentatively by the county HRC has stronger penalties than provided in any of the Rockville drafts.

Violators of the Rockville ordinance would be subject to a fine of up to $100 or up to 30 days in jail or both. The county ordinance provides up to a $1000 fine or six months imprisonment or both.

Both bills authorize the appropriate attorneys to issue temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions any time after a complaint is filed to preserve the status quo if it appears the housing in question may be sold or rented.

Under the county ordinance, if conciliation by the commission fails, a public hearing on the complaint may be held. Evidence may be required “by issuance of a subpoena signed by any member of the commission.”If a person is found guilty of violating the ordinance, the commission may direct the county attorney or state’s attorney to begin civil proceedings and, if this fails, criminal proceedings to enforce compliance.

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