New report on city development emphasizes human rights

The Baltimore Housing Roundtable this week released a report, “Community + Land + Trust: Tools for Development Without Displacement,” that details how Baltimore’s development policies have failed to create affordable housing and jobs with decent salaries for low-income residents. The report offers an alternative vision that puts a priority on human rights and human needs.

The report was published with help from the University of Baltimore Foundation and was written with assistance from student-attorneys in the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Community Development Clinic, which is directed by Professor Jaime Lee.

Click here to read a Baltimore Sun story about the report.

The following is a Jan. 28, 2016, news release from the Public Justice Center, a member of the Baltimore Housing Roundtable:

“At a launch event today, the Baltimore Housing Roundtable announced the report’s 20/20 vision to create permanently affordable housing, employ city residents, strengthen Baltimore neighborhoods, and restore trust:

  • Commit $20 million in public bonds or other revenue sources annually to invest in non-profit and Community Land Trust (CLT) housing through an affordable housing trust fund, and $20 million annually to deconstruct vacants, hire returning citizens and create green space and opportunities for urban agriculture.
  • Establish a Land Bank (already authorized by city charter) to dispose of vacant properties or empower the Vacants to Values program to acquire properties for CLT development.
  • Strengthen and enforce local hiring provisions so that city residents are trained for employment in deconstructing and rehabbing vacant property, with priority given to citizens returning from incarceration.
  • Support community leaders and other stakeholders in drafting and implementing community master plans, obtaining technical support, and ensuring participation by a diverse group of those most impacted by development decisions.

“‘We are very excited about this new approach as an opportunity to engage further in a long overdue conversation that recognizes the history of segregation, displacement and disinvestment in Baltimore and proposes practical solutions that empower residents to take the lead in meeting community needs and realizing a human right to housing and development,’ said Public Justice Center attorney Matt Hill.

“Baltimore’s current approach to economic development has left the city in crisis. The combination of race-based segregation in housing, deindustrialization, law enforcement practices, and speculative real estate investment has disproportionately affected Black families in Baltimore, curtailing their access to good jobs and affordable housing. Public subsidies for private investors have produced rising housing costs without rising wages, making it difficult for many people to afford their housing.

“The Baltimore Housing Roundtable calls for a new approach to community and economic development. One tool in this new approach is to support Community Land Trusts. ‘Like Project CORE we are focused on vacant property, but we want to ensure and preserve affordability and ensure local employment as well. Community Land Trusts create housing and small business opportunities while safeguarding against displacement,’ stated Danise Jones-Dorsey, member of the North East Housing Initiative.

“Maryland is home to several Community Land Trusts, including two in Baltimore (North East Housing Initiative and Charm City Land Trusts) as well as a handful of communities expressing interest in joining or establishing CLTs across the city. CLTs are a proven form of housing and economic development that creates private homeownership and rental opportunities, where resale prices are kept reasonable and affordable. Land for neighborhood development is controlled by the community. The structure brings communities together, retains public subsidies in the neighborhood, and has a better track record than other first-time homeownership programs for low-income buyers. There is a need for public investment in CLTs to restore trust in communities and create jobs and homeownership that will stabilize neighborhoods.”

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