Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
Statistics show Baltimore has as many as 40,000 vacant homes but only 43 affordable units are available per 100 extremely low-income households
UNIDENTIFIED: [incompr.] Put your hands together now. [incompr.] my God. Yeah, that’s it. We might not be able to do it outside, but I feel church on the inside. Can somebody [crosstalk]
RAY BAKER, TRNN PRODUCER: A coalition of community groups, labor activists, and faith-based organizations partnered for a rally in East Baltimore demanding housing justice. Renters, homeowners, and the homeless alike shared stories about vacant properties and failed development policies in their neighborhood.
CYNCHIA GROSS, EAST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: What’s happening in East Baltimore is that we see a lot of houses being turned over to for-profit developers because they are banking on Johns Hopkins and other organizations expanding in the community. And those who are residents here for a long time are being pushed out.
RACHEL KUTLER, ORGANIZER, UNITED WORKERS: [incompr.] what we know, you know, the policies that we’re seeing in Baltimore around development are all a reflection of power, power and money. So what we’re seeing–you know, we see these trends of failed development in Baltimore. Here were these handouts to big developers [incompr.] use the example of Harbor Point, Michael Beatty and Harbor Point. We gave him $107 million to, you know, redevelop Harbor Point with [incompr.] promises of trickle-down to the community. Now, at the same time we get these promises of trickle-down, there’s no accountability measures.
MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, CHARM CITY CLINIC: A couple of times a week, I visit one of my friends. Let’s call him Frank. Frank has been displaced from his home in East Baltimore three times in the past 30 years, three times. He’s a 68-year-old man who’s lived in East Baltimore all his life. You know who took that house? Any guesses?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hopkins.
ROGERS: Hopkins, the city, both of them, different story each time, but it’s happened each time.
Frank has stage four lung cancer. It took over a year to convince Frank that if he went to Hopkins to get treatment they weren’t going to kill him, because he was afraid of, you know, what’s happened every time with his house being taken.
BAKER: The event had the support of Cory McRay, a lifelong East Baltimore resident and candidate for delegate in Maryland’s 45th district.
CORY MCCRAY, CANDIDATE, MD HOUSE OF DELEGATES: I think [incompr.] always be listening to the community. I see McElderry Park. I see Glenn Ross and his community. I see /kɛr/ in there. I see so many communities. And fair housing is a real issue. Fair housing and to be able to have affordable housing is such a real issue. So it’s very important for people to be able to understand the issues that’s going on in the community that they want to represent [snip] to hold the corporations that’s doing business in our community accountable. In reference to tax breaks, anybody that’s getting any type of state/city subsidy should be accountable to the community or should have some type of binding agreement with the community, especially for affordable housing.
BAKER: Baltimore City has long been known for abandoned homes, but community groups are arguing that they don’t want businesses to come in and redevelop on top of them. Instead, they want to be partners at the table for the revitalization of Baltimore homes.
DONALD GRESHAM, PRESIDENT, BRACE: –coming to the table not with–already figured out what you’re going to do, but how we can work in partnership. The way you do it is recognize you’ve got to be transparent. We’ve got to be able to participate. We’ve got to make sure that there’s accountability there.
KUTLER: We’re not anti-development in any means. We would encourage development. But we just want to make sure development is shared equitably among community members. We want to make sure that development means, like, everybody is included in the benefits. And so, like, what that means is that, like, investment, city investment, goes into the communities. Right now we see this sort of tale of two cities, right? We see downtown investment; communities are left out of the equation. We want to see that sort of investment shared equitably across communities.
GARY DITTMAN, PASTOR, AMAZING GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH: We don’t have to change the name of a community to make it more safe and livable. We don’t have to build bright, beautiful, big houses for better neighborhoods. I’m not saying that people aren’t welcome, but just saying long-term residents need to drive this process.
BAKER: A theme of the rally was coalition building, which was dramatized by the presence of clergy. Father Peter Lions, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Church, which hosted the rally, mentioned the importance of he and his congregates at the speak-out.
FR. PETER LYONS, PASTOR, ST. WENCESLAUS CHURCH: As a church and a faith-based community in this neighborhood, it’s our objective to be supportive of the community and its interests and its needs. Our church has a longstanding tradition and history of supporting issues of social justice, which includes right to work, fair housing opportunities, health care, and a variety of other justice-related issues. So we’re just carrying out the mission of the church in supporting our neighborhood residents and our city residents.
BAKER: Although Baltimore is known as a primarily African-American city, the rally featured attendees from diverse backgrounds showing that the housing crisis is a citywide problem.
LYONS: Oh, yeah. It would be a mistake to think that the housing issue and the many issues of injustice in our city are limited to one ethnic group. Our folks are hurting across all the lines of ethnic and economic and, you know, religious background.
KUTLER: There was latinos, there was white Americans, there was black folks, all together. Not only, like, did we cross on racial divides, but we crossed kind of, like, income brackets and, like, geography. So, you know, while this was focused on East Baltimore, we actually had folks–you know that lady at the end who was really energized? She’s from Northeast Baltimore. She’s from Frankford. And we had our West Baltimore committee here as well. Like, folks all over the city coming together.
BAKER: I’m Ray Baker in Baltimore, reporting for The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.