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Maryland Faces Exodus as Population Declines: A Case to Reject Governor Moore’s Housing Expansion

By Associate Member Sam Wahbe


Maryland, once hailed for its bustling towns and thriving communities, is grappling with a harsh reality: its population is on the decline. The state has witnessed a mass exodus of citizens and businesses with a staggering total outflow of 65,000 individuals migrating to states like Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina. This significant departure begs the question: why the push for multi-use developments and manufactured homes when Maryland's population is dwindling? And misleading the public by saying there's a rental apartment shortage when there's not. In fact, Maryland has the 12 highest rental vacancy rate at 9.2%  in 2023 according to IProperty management.com statistics. 32% of Marylanders are renters too. 

 

Baltimore, the state's largest city, is at the forefront of this population decline crisis. Once a bustling metropolis and the sixth-largest city in the nation, Baltimore now grapples with a stark reality. From nearly 800,000 residents in the 1980s, the city has witnessed a decline to less than 600,000 in recent years. The consequences are dire, with abandoned homes and vacant lots dotting the landscape. Residents are fleeing Baltimore & Maryland in search of safer havens elsewhere, further exacerbating the population drain.

 

The root causes of this exodus are multifaceted, encompassing issues ranging from juvenile crime and drug epidemics to a failing education system. Maryland struggles with alarming rates of juvenile crime, drug abuse (notably, the lethal impact of fentanyl on the youth), and a disturbing trend of black-on-black violence. The state's education system, despite receiving billions in funding, continues to yield poor results, failing to adequately prepare students for the future.

 

Compounding these challenges is the departure of businesses, the wealthy, and the upper middle class – the backbone of Maryland's tax base. The state has one of the highest taxes and fees in the country. Additionally, the regulations and restrictions on small and medium size businesses are excessive and unnecessary. These key contributors to the state's economy are seeking greener pastures elsewhere, further exacerbating the financial strain on Maryland. Against this backdrop of declining population and economic instability, the push for multi-use development by the state raises pertinent questions.


Senate Bill 484 and HB 538 purportedly aimed at promoting affordable housing, has faced criticism for its misleading nomenclature. Rather than addressing the pressing needs of the populace, it appears to advocate for unnecessary growth and state government overreach in building and zoning affairs. This ignores the will of local municipalities and county councils that normally make these important local decisions. To me, it's a violation of the rights of citizens to provide input on zoning laws. It's a power grab by the Governor and state. Housing and development issues should be decided locally. With Maryland grappling with a burgeoning state budget deficit nearing $3 billion, the emphasis on expansive development seems misplaced. How about spending the funds on attracting businesses to the State of Maryland and fighting out of control violent juvenile crime and fighting drug overdoses from fentanyl and heroin. The leading cause of death among our youth. 

 

In the face of these challenges, it is imperative for Maryland to reassess its so called affordable housing development strategies. Instead of prioritizing new multi use development projects and invasive construction projects that benefit and enrich developers, policymakers must focus on revitalizing existing communities. These multi use development projects cause more school overcrowding, crime and bad traffic congestion without local input since the state has final decision on the entire process. In the final analysis, this is state government overreach and does not solve the problem of affordable housing. That role and responsibility should be left up to the local communities through their county councils and executives. The idea that the State knows best about these matters is fallacious. And citizens will vote with their feet and more will exit out of the state.

 

 This will leave Maryland with less revenue from taxes and force it to either cut spending or raise taxes and fees. That's the problem with these bills. It's not a solution for the housing shortage it's just a power grab. Let the local citizens decide how to solve the problem. It's not the job or responsibility of the state. The state should concentrate on its role in crime prevention, improving education and health services not local government responsibilities such as zoning laws and multi use development projects. Only beneficiaries are the developers and non profits that get state funds. Vote no to SB 484 & SB 538. 

 

Sam Wahbe, a concerned citizen, underscores the urgency of reevaluating Maryland's development trajectory. With the state at a critical juncture, it is imperative for stakeholders to collaborate in charting a sustainable path forward. By addressing the root causes of population decline and prioritizing the needs of its citizens, Maryland can aspire to reclaim its status as a vibrant and thriving state.




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