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Helping Hands: Family Crisis Resource Center Serves Allegany County Domestic Violence Survivors

It’s unfortunately common for victims of domestic violence to be faced with a different problem: homelessness. After fleeing abusive situations, some may find they lack the financial resources or familial support to gain shelter and safety. Supported in part by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Homelessness Solutions Program, the Family Crisis Resource Center (FCRC) supports individuals dealing with these crises.
The only shelter of its kind in Allegany County, FCRC is an invaluable resource. As a low-barrier shelter with no mandatory requirements regarding income level, sobriety, criminal background or participation in other programs, FCRC is open to both men and women. On average, survivors stay with FCRC for a little over two months before moving out. Over the last three months, more than a dozen people have been able to go from FCRC into safe, stable and permanent housing.

The center also provides crisis support and case management services that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the residential support staff. The goal of the program is to help clients gain self-sufficiency and maintain stable housing. Every service offered by FCRC is safe, professional and confidential in order to ensure that survivors are able to maintain privacy and safety from their abuser. Although abusive partners are not allowed to stay at the shelter, the Abuse Intervention Program is available for perpetrators of intimate partner abuse.

If you or anyone you know is in need of support from FCRC, they are available through their 24/7 Hotline at 301-759-9244.

Helping Hands is a series covering homelessness service providers across Maryland. The Office of Community Programs works to coordinate statewide efforts aimed at reducing the numbers of homeless households in Maryland. The office also oversees more than $9 million in grant funding that is awarded to Continuums of Care through the Homelessness Solutions Program. For more information or to locate services near you, visit

Student Loan Debt Didn’t Stop These First-Time Homebuyers Thanks to Maryland SmartBuy

Homeownership is a game-changer for most people. For those with student loan debt, it can be a lost dream. In Maryland, a college graduate owes an average of $27,000 in debt. And in most cases, this keeps them from being able to buy a home until that debt is paid down or paid off, which can take years.

A Smart Option to Renting
SmartBuy is a nationally-recognized program assisting first-time homebuyers burdened with student debt. SmartBuy homebuyers are homeowners that were able to pay off student debt and purchase a home in Maryland through the program. They have seen a big difference in their quality of life as new homeowners and being student debt-free. Jake L., of Montgomery County, Maryland, was tired of renting. He started researching home financing options and didn’t know if his student loan debt of nearly $25,000 would hinder him from buying a home. He found a good team.

“My real estate agent and lender were great! They were transparent, on top of things, and very helpful through the process,” Jake said. He used a SmartBuy loan through one of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s certified SmartBuy lenders.

Jake was able to pay off his student loan debt with a SmartBuy loan and move into his 2 bedrooms, 2 bath condominium last year.

“I could not have purchased a home without the SmartBuy program,” Jake said.

Jake advises potential homebuyers to use SmartBuy. “You have to do it. If you owe student loan debt, SmartBuy can help you buy a home. Buying a home builds equity and eliminates debt at the same time. Start planning now and contact a lender.”

Everyone’s Home
Another SmartBuy success story is Sarah N., who also purchased in Montgomery County. Sarah now has a home where she welcomes family members from far and wide. A native of Kenya, Sarah wanted a home for her big family events and celebrations. She had student loan debt and was concerned she couldn’t afford student loan payments and a mortgage payment. “I could afford my student debt loan payment of $750 per month, but I didn’t think I could afford a home mortgage payment as well,” she said.

So, she researched online looking for first-time homebuyer opportunities, hoping to find some good news. A real estate agent forwarded Sarah an article on SmartBuy. She ended up working with several agents before finding one that was a good fit for her, however. The agent she chose listened to her needs, including her need to stay in budget, and also helped her through the lender approval process.

Sarah had purchased a 3 bedroom, 1 ½ bath single-family home in 2017. She has entertained family and friends and looks forward to many more years of family celebrations in her new home.

She advises homebuyers to be patient, especially since closing can sometimes take more than thirty days. She also recommends reading all the documentation and requirements so homebuyers can be better prepared. She added that taking the homebuying counseling course online versus in a classroom was very helpful and convenient.

A Life Changer
Sarah said, “the Maryland SmartBuy program was absolutely the reason I was able to purchase a home. I would not have had the ability to purchase a home and stay in the area I wanted to live without SmartBuy.”

Jake adds, “SmartBuy had the power to change my life in a powerful way. It was absolutely vital to getting into my home. I would not have been able to do this, buy a home, right now without SmartBuy. Also, I am now working on going back to graduate school to continue to invest in my future.”

Last month, Governor Hogan announced that the popular Maryland SmartBuy program will expand on August 6. The limited-time expansion, called SmartBuy 2.0, allows participants to purchase any eligible home in the state while eliminating up to $30,000 in student debt. Currently, SmartBuy requires buyers to purchase select homes designated by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

If you have student loan debt, SmartBuy loans can make a difference in your homebuying experience. Contact a certified SmartBuy lender today to get started!

Hogan Administration Announces More Than $9.1 Million in Grants for Homelessness Solutions Efforts

Hogan Administration Announces More Than $9.1 Million in Grants for Homelessness Solutions Efforts

Newly streamlined state program will provide services to 15,000 Marylanders

New Carrollton, Md. (August 2, 2018) – The Hogan Administration today announced more than $9.1 million in grant awards administered through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s new Homelessness Solutions Program. The awards, made to the local Continuums of Care, are expected to fund services for about 15,000 Marylanders experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The majority of the funding comes from state sources, with approximately $1 million appropriated through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Emergency Solutions Grants Program.

“Our administration is committed to connecting Maryland citizens in need to resources that will help them thrive,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “With this streamlined program, we are providing greater access to opportunities for homeless or vulnerable Marylanders to ensure they receive the support and compassionate care they deserve.”

In 2017, the governor signed legislation to assign administration of the majority of the state’s homelessness service programs to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Previously, the six programs serving Maryland’s homeless were spread between the Department of Human Services and the Department of Housing. By consolidating these programs into one single Homelessness Solutions Program, care providers now have more efficient processes for funding and reporting; state funding goals are aligned with federal requirements and national best practice trends; local entities have more flexibility and control over spending; and supportive housing options are expanded.

A major advantage of the new program is the streamlining of funding to the state’s 16 Continuums of Care, which are responsible for coordinating the provision of homeless services within their respective jurisdictions, serving every city and county within the state. This will allow for more efficient and strategic deployment of state funding.

A particular focus for the Department of Housing and Community Development is providing services to unaccompanied homeless youth. Included in this funding round are a number of providers who will be providing new or expanded services for this population. In Baltimore City, the Youth Empowered Society will provide Rapid Re-Housing services, in Frederick County, the Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership will be providing host homes and in Prince George’s County, the funding will support a range of youth-specific care, including shelter, rapid re-housing, and homelessness prevention services.

Allocations by Region

Service Area


Capital Region $1,726,971
Central Maryland $4,086,580
Eastern Shore $1,704,390
Southern Maryland $823,256
Western Maryland $791,510
TOTAL $9,132,707

Allocations by Activity



Outreach $490,581
Emergency Shelter $4,027,443
Rapid Re-Housing $2,156,021
Homeless Prevention $1,545,167
Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) $39,605
Administrative $503,427
TOTAL $9,132,707

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MEDIA CONTACT: Sara Luell, Director of Communications,, 301-429-7803

Photo Release: Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford Addresses Opportunity Zone Conference

For immediate release:
July 31, 2018
Shareese Churchill


Photo Release: Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford Addresses Opportunity Zone Conference

Program Provides Tax Incentives for Investment In Distressed Communities for Next 10 Years

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford today opened the Maryland Opportunity Zone Conference. Hosted by the Maryland Departments of Housing and Community Development and Commerce, the conference, which is one of the first of its kind in the nation, provides an opportunity to learn more about the program and discuss best practices to spur revitalization across the state. The Lt. Governor was joined by Housing Secretary Kenneth C. Holt and Commerce Secretary Mike Gill.

The Opportunity Zone program is a a nationwide initiative administered by the U.S. Treasury created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The program provides federal tax incentives for investment in economically distressed and underserved communities over the next 10 years. Areas designated as Opportunity Zones will be able to reap the benefits of capital gains to help finance redevelopment and revitalization. In May, 149 Opportunity Zones were designated across Maryland, with every single jurisdiction in the state receiving at least one designation.

“Today, we have brought all of the experts together to discuss how we can best harness creativity and innovation to build partnerships that will ensure these Opportunity Zones, and their related programs, work effectively and profitably to drive economic growth in Maryland,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “Our administration is committed to ensuring these zones are successful as we continue to change Maryland for the better.”

“The Opportunity Zone designation is another great initiative that expands Maryland’s economic development toolbox,” said Secretary Gill. “It provides a brand new mechanism to jump start business growth and job creation in communities that need it the most.”

“We hosted more than 500 people at today’s conference, and I think that’s indicative of the great interest in Opportunity Zones across the public and private sectors,” said Secretary Holt. “That broad support will be key in developing the partnerships and plans that will foster innovative investment in these areas.”


For more information about Opportunity Zones and for maps of selected communities, visit


Project C.O.R.E. – Application of Interest for Fiscal Year 2020

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development is soliciting Applications of Interest to the gauge the need for future Project C.O.R.E. funding.  

The information provided in the Application of Interest will be used to inform the fiscal year 2020 Project CORE budget request.

Project C.O.R.E. – Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise – is an initiative to eliminate blight in Baltimore City and make way for new green space, affordable and mixed use housing, and new and greater opportunities for businesses to innovate and grow. The initiative is a partnership between the State and the City of Baltimore to create safer and healthier communities for all residents.

Through the use of Project C.O.R.E. and other complementary funding, the department hopes to continue to support the revitalization of Baltimore City and achieve various community development outcomes such as those described below:

  • Preparation of lots for development, through land assemblage, demolition and/or site development.
  • Stabilization leading to redevelopment, with a focus on specific blocks and neighborhoods. For example, stabilization of scattered vacant properties on a block of majority-occupied housing.  
  • Stabilization of historic or contributing buildings, making them ready for rehabilitation.
  • Predevelopment that expands housing opportunities for people of all economic backgrounds.
  • Site assemblage by land trust entity for permanent affordable housing development.
  • Site assemblage by land trust entity for open space, recreation and/or habitat preservation.
  • Opportunities for urban agriculture and community managed green space, or other potentially interim uses.

All Applications of Interest are due on Friday, August 10, 2018, 12:00 P.M. (noon).  

There are two types of eligible applicants for this Application of Interest: City of Baltimore agencies and nonprofit Community Development Organizations (CDOs) working in Baltimore City.  

All applications should be completed using the online Intelligrants system.  Additional information about the application can be found in the program guidelines.

In Case You Missed It: Carol Gilbert on “Living in Baltimore”

On May 18, Assistant Secretary Carol Gilbert was interviewed on the Greater Baltimore Community Housing Resource Board’s “Living in Baltimore” radio show on Heaven 600 WCAO. Assistant Secretary Gilbert spoke with host Bill Kladky on Project C.O.R.E. (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise), a state-city partnership to remove blight in Baltimore City. If you missed it the first time around, you can hear the full interview here:

Maryland SmartBuy 2.0 Offers More Opportunities for Homeownership

Governor Larry Hogan recently announced that the Maryland Mortgage Program will begin accepting mortgage applications for SmartBuy 2.0 on Monday, August 6, 2018. Under the expanded program, applicants can purchase any eligible home in Maryland and pay off their outstanding student loan debt.

This announcement has generated a wave of excitement among potential homebuyers who have been locked out of the housing market by student loan debt. Due to the interest in this program, listed are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

1. Which homes are available for purchase through the SmartBuy 2.0 program?
Previously, a participant had to purchase a home designated by the Maryland Mortgage Program to participate in the program. SmartBuy 2.0 makes the program available to purchase any home in Maryland that meets Maryland Mortgage Program guidelines.

2. Can I still have student loan debt after I purchase the home?
No. The full outstanding balance of the student debt (which shall not exceed 15% of the purchase price or $30,000, whichever is lower) must be paid off as part of closing. If your student debt exceeds that threshold, you are required to pay that excess amount prior to settlement to participate in the program.

3. Can I use any lender?
You are required to use a certified Maryland SmartBuy lender. Please check our website to find a lender that is convenient for you.

4. Do I have to use a Realtor?
No. However, we strongly recommend doing so. A well-trained real estate professional will act as your advocate in purchasing a home, can help you find a home suitable to your preferences and budget, and help answer questions you have about the transaction as they arise.

5. How long will SmartBuy 2.0 be available?
Funding for the program is limited, and demand for the program is expected to be strong. Act quickly!

For more information, visit our website, then talk to one of our certified SmartBuy lenders.

Main Attractions: Oakland Combines Natural Beauty with Rich History

Even for life-long Marylanders, it can be difficult to see beyond what the state is typically associated with, like the Chesapeake Bay and the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. Located in the mountains of western Maryland, Oakland offers visitors the chance to see an entirely different and sometimes forgotten side of the state.

Oakland was one of the first towns to receive Main Street Maryland designation when the program was established in 1998. Since FY15, the town has received a combined $3.5 million in funding from various programs operated by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The funding has been used for projects large and small, such as  $184,000 in Community Legacy funding for façade improvements, to $10,000 for fixes made to a parking lot through the Main Street Improvement Program.

The town’s business coordinator, Michelle Ross, is an Oakland native and is quick to extol the town’s virtues. First among those, in her mind, is the clean and fresh mountain air. Ross said the town is also unique in its welcoming environment and safe and family-friendly community. She feels that many of the visitors to the town are drawn to Oakland’s proximity to some of Maryland’s most popular outdoor attractions, such as Deep Creek Lake and Swallow Falls State Park.

Oakland’s rich local history is another part of its appeal. The town is home to three museums, all situated in close proximity to each other. Visitors can learn about the town’s history, explore its old railroad station, and visit the Garrett County Museum of Transportation for a look at old cars, buggies, sleighs and more, as well as an exhibit dedicated to the history of Deep Creek Lake and surrounding parks. The town’s history is evident outside of its museums as well. Visitors to the town can stop and have lunch at Englander’s, a local business that first opened as a pharmacy with a soda fountain in the 1940s. Today, the pharmacy has been replaced by an antique store, but the soda fountain is still in operation and offers diners the chance to have a meal at a local institution.

For all the town’s natural beauty and rich history, Ross pointed out that Oakland is far from stuck in its past. She noted another feature of the town that sometimes goes overlooked: a thriving arts and cultural presence. “We have an eclectic mix,” Ross said. “We want everyone to be able to find something here that they’re interested in.” Free concerts are an integral part of Friday nights in the summer, and the annual Autumn Glory festival brings more than 50,000 people to the town over the course of a week.

As the town continues to grow, Ross said, she wants to see the diversification of its businesses continue. . “[Being a Main Street community] keeps our emphasis on how important it is to retain our downtown,” Ross said. “We’re constantly keeping a spotlight on that and how important it is. We also have this pool of people who experience the same things as we do. We…can always ask for whatever we need to do, and that’s really helpful. It’s been very positive for us.”

“Main Attractions” is a regular series highlighting Main Street Maryland communities. Main Street Maryland is a comprehensive downtown revitalization program created in 1998 by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. These communities receive assistance for improving the economy, appearance and image of their traditional downtown business districts. For more information on Main Street Maryland, visit

An Affordable Solution for Homebuyers with Student Loan Debt

Burdened with student debt? Don’t despair; you are certainly not alone.

Nationally, 44 million people have student loan debt, totaling nearly $1.5 trillion dollars — easily surpassing the total of credit card debt, according to the website Student Loan Hero. In Maryland, the average amount of student debt is more than $27,000. Fifty-four percent of college students who graduated from a Maryland college or university in 2016 came out of school with student loan debt, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.

This debt affects the life choices graduates make. Studies show that millennials with college debt are living at home with their parents longer, waiting longer to get married and start a family, and are waiting an average of seven years longer to purchase their first home.

That’s where Maryland SmartBuy can help. Started in 2016, the Maryland SmartBuy program helps those with as little as $1,000 in student loan debt purchase their first home.

The program works by paying off student debt during the purchase of the home through special Maryland Mortgage Program (MMP) financing. Maryland SmartBuy involves the purchase of move-in-ready homes currently owned, and designated for sale through the program, by the State of Maryland.

Beginning on August 6, Maryland SmartBuy 2.0 will provide an opportunity for homebuyers to purchase any home in Maryland that meets MMP guidelines while still paying off student debt. This limited-time program provides up to $30,000 in student debt relief.

Take steps now to take part in this exciting opportunity! Visit our website at to learn how.

Maryland SmartBuy is part of Governor Hogan’s SmartStart initiative, a comprehensive series of programs designed to make a college education more affordable and provide relief to Marylanders burdened by student debt. In addition to SmartBuy, the program includes:

  • Maryland SmartWork will offer Maryland state employees working in specified shortage areas – such as correctional officers, nurses, and IT workers – the opportunity to receive state assistance to repay their student loans. Current state employees working in those areas that are paying down their children’s student loans also qualify for this benefit.
  • Maryland SmartSave is an extensive resource of financial aid programs in the form of grants, scholarships, and other awards to help pay for furthering education. Financial aid can come in the form of grants, work, student loans, parent loans, scholarships, and other awards.

For more information, visit

A New Canvas for Baltimore: Central Neighborhood Businesses Revitalize for the Future

Central Baltimore City is in the middle of a renaissance. With $50,000 in matching grants from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Remington Commercial Façade Improvement Program, local businesses have been able to continue moving toward a brighter future through exterior renovations. DHCD supported this project with a FY-2017 Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative (BRNI) award in the amount of $50,000 to the Central Baltimore Partnership.

In recent years, the historic neighborhood has had to contend with the issue of neighborhood blight. The Remington Commercial Façade improvement Program, which was facilitated by the Greater Remington Improvement Association in partnership with the Central Baltimore Partnership, provides matching grants to commercial properties in the area. This program intends to combat the decades of disinvestment for commercial properties in Remington. Grants were awarded in amounts up to $10,000, and recipients were required to provide 25 percent matching funds.

With these funds, businesses gain the ability to make upgrades to exterior painting, signage, lighting, and more that improve the appearance of the property and its immediate surroundings. This will allow Remington to continue growing and thriving, and will attract more businesses and homeowners to the area.

To date, five projects have been completed in the neighborhood. These include:

  • 29th Street Tavern (398 West 29th Street)
  • Sweet 27 (123 W. 27th Street)
  • B. Willow (220 W. 27th Street)
  • Khepera’s Kitchen (418 E. 31st Street)
  • Brown Rice Korean Grill (2404 N. Charles Street)

“A New Canvas for Baltimore” is a regular series covering Project C.O.R.E. (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise). Project C.O.R.E. will clear the way for new green space, new affordable and mixed use housing, and new opportunities for small business owners in Baltimore City. The initiative will generate jobs, strengthen the partnership between the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland and lead to safer, healthier and more attractive communities. For more information on Project C.O.R.E., visit

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