In 1939, Maryland State law authorized Housing Authorities. In 1966, the Montgomery County Council activated the Housing Authority of Montgomery County (HAMC). HAMC was established and funded as a bureau of the County Government’s Department of Economic and Community Development with five volunteer Commissioners to oversee its operations. HAMC was to receive and allocate federal funds made available for the development and management of low-income public housing in the County.
In 1967, HAMC, responding to accelerating growth in the County and citizen housing advocates, demonstrated through a comprehensive study the need for the County to develop a more comprehensive strategy to address the growing need for low and moderate cost housing in the County. HAMC recommended a broad range of housing objectives that went beyond constructing federally funded public housing.
HAMC advocated that the County’s housing objectives should include:
the elimination and replacement of structurally unsound dwellings;
the provision of incentives to rehabilitate substandard dwellings;
the construction of new dwellings for low-income families bearing an excessive rent burden;
the provision of additional housing for newly formed families or retired persons who could not afford to remain in the County; and
programs to encourage low and moderate income families toward self-sufficiency through homeownership.
HAMC concluded that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the agency to meet the broader housing needs as a bureau within the constraints of the County Charter. In 1968, motivated by the desire for greater flexibility and without objection from the County Council, HAMC separated itself from the County Government.
By the early 1970s, it became evident to County officials as well as to HAMC that a housing affordability gap existed in the County. The housing needs in the County went beyond the provision of public housing funded by the federal government. There was interest in expanding the ability of the public sector to provide housing services to a wider range of income groups. There was a desire to exploring new approaches to providing capital for development.
To accomplish this, the County introduced legislation to the State to expand the County’s own housing powers and to create a new housing entity that could provide increased flexibility. In 1974, parallel State and County legislation was enacted that established a broader housing mission for the County and restructured HAMC into the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) of Montgomery County, Maryland.
At the state level, HOC was authorized to acquire, own, lease, and operate housing; to provide for the construction or renovation of housing; borrow money, accept grants, and obtain other financial assistance from any public or private source to assist its housing activities; and arrange for social services, including resident services and day care. The state expanded the size of the Commission from five to seven members, who would be appointed by the County Executive and approved by the County Council.
At the county level, a new article, the Housing Opportunities Act, was added to the County Code to parallel the new language in the State law. This Act authorized the county to enter into contracts with HOC or other non-profit organizations to carry out its opportunity housing powers.
The most significant change enacted in 1974 was to expand the definition of whom HOC could serve.
HOC was now authorized to provide "opportunity housing" to persons of eligible income as determined by the County Executive through regulation. County law sets forth the term "opportunity housing" to mean those dwelling units for which the rental or selling price is established by the County in order that "persons of eligible income" may be able, within their respective incomes, to live in decent, safe, and sanitary accommodations, without overcrowding."
Prior to 1974, HAMC could only issue mortgage revenue bonds to finance construction of its own developments. In most cases, mortgage revenue bonds are repaid from the income and revenue of the development financed with the bonds. The 1974 amendments to the State law expanded HOC’s bond authority to allow the agency to issue mortgage revenue bonds for additional purposes. HOC, in accordance with a contract with the County, is authorized to issue bonds to finance mortgage loans for persons of eligible income or to finance multi-family construction projects which provide a certain number of affordable units.
In 1977, State law was enacted to allow Montgomery County to guarantee the principal and interest on bonds issued by HOC. The County enacted separate legislation in 1978 to detail the process that must be followed when HOC bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of Montgomery County and the monetary limit on the amount of bonds issued that can be guaranteed by the County. In 1988, this limit was increased to $50 million.
HOC has creatively responded to the changes that affected the production of affordable housing. As federal subsidies for public housing were slashed, HOC sought and found other ways to produce affordable housing in the County. Because of this, HOC is considered a leader in the nation in developing affordable housing.
Through the 1970s, HOC development activity consisted primarily of federally funded public and assisted housing. In accordance with federal regulations, public housing development is 100 percent low income, while other development (Section 236 projects owned by separate non-profit boards but managed by HOC) is targeted for moderate-income households. In addition to public housing. HOC also obtained and administered Section 8 rental subsidy certificates for the County. This program is now called the Housing Choice Voucher program.
During the 1980s, there were substantial cuts in federal funding for public housing development. In the early 1980s, HOC’s development activity expanded to issuing tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds to refinance privately owned developments. Each of these privately owned developments included a set-aside of units that usually exceeded the minimum "public purpose" definitions established by the federal government as a condition for tax exempt financing. All of these privately owned and managed developments have a resident mix of at least 20 percent low- and moderate-income households. The federal tax reform act of 1986 severely limited the amount of private activity bonds HOC could issue.
During the mid-to-late 1980’s, HOC’s development activity has shifted to new construction of mixed income housing developments owned by HOC. These developments (with 20-50 percent low-income households) are financed through a combination of essential purpose bonds, HOC funds, and State and County subsidies.
The mission of the Housing Opportunities Commission is to provide affordable housing and supportive services that enhance the lives of low- and moderate-income families and individuals throughout Montgomery County, Maryland so that:
No one in Montgomery County is living in substandard housing;
We strengthen families and communities as good neighbors;
We establish an efficient and productive environment that fosters trust, open communication and mutual respect;
We work with advocates and providers to maintain support for all the work of the Commission.
To achieve this mission, HOC operates as a
public housing agency, a
housing finance agency and a housing
The Montgomery County government provides funding for the Commission to manage the following service programs:
Affordable Housing Development: acquires Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) for rental to lower-income families;
Public Housing Management: maintains community norms and relationships between homeowner associations and public housing residents;
Services to Residents in Assisted Housing: provides counseling and support services to low-income individuals and families in assisted housing; and
Housing Resource Service: provides up-to-date information on available housing programs.
HOC Organization Chart