Skip to content

Baltimore Takes Aim at the Predatory Capitalism that Spawned Trump

August 13, 2019

Baltimore is on the cusp of adopting policies that will turn the tables on the exploitative housing policies that devastated the city and fueled Donald Trump’s rise

Baltimore is on the cusp of adopting policies that will turn the tables on the exploitative housing policies that devastated the city and fueled Donald Trump’s rise


Baltimore Takes Aim at the Predatory Capitalism that Spawned Trump

Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER: Donald Trump has called Baltimore “rat infested,” “a place no one wants to live,” but in fact there are people who not only want to live here—

PROTESTER: Whose city?

CROWD: Our city.

PROTESTER:  Whose city?

CROWD: Our city.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER: But are waging a historic campaign to create safe, affordable, and community-controlled housing, a critical part of making a city livable.

MELENY THOMAS, FAIR HOUSING ADVOCATE: Affordable housing is a huge, huge issue. It’s very important because you see homes like these to the left of me, that are run down and some slumlords or people that want to capitalize on the residents of Baltimore, they would come in and just do subpar work.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER: Since 2016, United Workers and the Fair Development Round Table have led efforts to create the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a government entity tasked with distributing millions of dollars for fair housing in a city that’s faced a massive shortage for decades.

PROTESTER:  Whose fund?

CROWD: Our fund.

PROTESTER:  Whose fund?

CROWD: Our fund.

PROTESTER:  Whose city?

CROWD: Our city.

PROTESTER:  Whose city?

CROWD: Our city.

DESTINY WATFORD, LEADERSHIP ORGANIZER, FREE YOUR VOICE, & 2016 GOLDMAN PRIZE WINNER: We fought for two years, canvassing in the blazing hot sun during summer to not only create the fund, but to make sure that the money goes into the fund.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER: The city is expected to start accepting applications for the program this fall and advocates like Destiny Watford, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, are demanding the fund be used for the purpose they envisioned: creating housing that’s a livable and attainable for the average resident.

DESTINY WATFORD: We know how to fight and I just want to remind you guys of that. That if the money for whatever reason it seems it’s not going to go where it needs to go, to permanently affordable housing, we will fight you. Not physically.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER: The history of housing policy in Baltimore helps explain the city’s shocking disparities in wealth, income, life expectancy, and economic mobility. It’s one of the worst cities to grow up poor and black in America. In 1910, Baltimore pioneered residential segregation. The 30s brought New Deal government programs that created generational wealth, if you’re white. For black communities, it was predatory capitalism, redlining, blockbusting— all rooted in legal discrimination. The Civil Rights Movement brought some relief. Empowered by the Fair Housing Act, the feds went after landlords like Donald Trump, who was sued by the DOJ in the 1970s for discriminating against black tenants.

Today, the Fair Housing Act is under attack. Leaked documents reveal the Trump administration is seeking to gut provisions aimed at preventing discrimination by landlords. Rather than focusing on a profit margin, Baltimore’s fair housing movement seeks to address this crisis through community empowerment. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund mandates the city spend $20 million a year to create affordable housing and another $20 million to address Baltimore’s roughly 16,000 vacants.

This approach lies in sharp contrast with the billions in taxpayer subsidies given to wealthy and well-connected developers that have defined Baltimore housing policies for decades, but have failed to address the need for affordable housing, which has remained staggering. Some one in ten residents are on the wait list for subsidized housing vouchers. And as city officials prepared to launch the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, advocates packed a meeting in Curtis Bay on July 24th and released a report outlining their demands: The land must be under community control through models like land trusts or cooperatives, and the program must center racial and economic justice.

ILETA JOYNES, COMMISSIONER, AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND, & ADVOCATE FOR FAIR HOUSING: What we want to do is strongly recommend that the Department of Community And Development take on our priorities when it comes to selecting who gets the money. It’s not going towards developers who might use it for something else.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER: Collective action, built on community power, which offers a powerful rebuttal to the narrative put forth by Baltimore’s detractors. For the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.