This story will be updated.
City officials are expected to announce their vision for Baltimore’s new $20 million Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) at a meeting at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) headquarters on Tuesday, August 27. A DHCD spokesperson confirmed to The Real News the agency will present details about the fund.
DHCD is expected to begin accepting applications for the fund this year. Fair housing advocates say the criteria by which the city decides what programs will be funded will be key to achieving their goal of creating housing that’s affordable to the average Baltimore resident. At last month’s meeting in Curtis Bay, activists demanded all funded programs center community control of land and adopt a race equity lens, and vowed to fight if their demands weren’t met.
.@unitedworkers and the Fair Development Roundtable have waged an extraordinary grassroots campaign for affordable housing in a city that’s faced massive shortages for decades. Its the antithesis to the racist, predatory capitalism that spawned Trump. Preview below pic.twitter.com/UvwLwJ7rFf
— Jaisal Noor (@jaisalnoor) August 12, 2019
The stakes are high for Baltimore, a city that has already experienced 223 homicides in 2019. Last week, Mayor Jack Young met with Governor Larry Hogan and requested additional state aid to bolster law enforcement in the city. But studies show that inequality and poverty are the greatest predictors of violence. Activists say officials have not done enough to address the root causes of violence, and say the AHTF provides an opportunity to do so.
For decades officials have offered billions in subsidies to developers who promise to build affordable housing. But the city’s inclusionary housing law is weak, and the Inclusionary Housing Fund never received the funds necessary to address the shortage in affordable housing. The Baltimore Brew reported developers frequently skirt the intent of the law, noting the fund has created just nine affordable housing units in the last five years. One in ten Baltimore families are on the waitlist for Baltimore’s Section 8 Housing Voucher Program.
The new fund, which was the result of years of successful community organizing efforts and public pressure on elected officials, could mark a stark departure from the way the city has traditionally approached affordable housing.
The AHTF will directly fund projects aimed at creating fair housing in the city. In a report published last month activists demanded models such as cooperatives or community land trusts, where housing is made available to residents making 0-50% of the area’s median income, and controlled through a renewable 99-year lease.
Organizers point to cities like Buffalo, New York and Jackson, Mississippi that have had some success adopting community land trusts.
Donald Trump’s recent racist tweets have put the national spotlight on housing conditions in Baltimore. Community activists say the problems are rooted in history: Baltimore was the first city to mandate residential segregation, and practices such as redlining and predatory lending robbed untold millions of wealth from Baltimore’s black residents.
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Last week members of the Fair Development Roundtable addressed their demands for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund at Ida B’s Table:
— Jaisal Noor (@jaisalnoor) August 20, 2019