Questions Raised Over Proposed Affordable Housing in Port Covington

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The Real News speaks to critics and supporters outside of the Baltimore War Memorial

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KWAME ROSE, TRNN: Kwame Rose here for the Real News Network, outside of War Memorial Plaza, where inside lawmakers and developers for the Port Covington project are concluding right now one of three working sessions where they’re hashing out the details for a proposed TIFF, $660 million tax incremented financing plan, to finance the Port Covington project in South Baltimore.

Now, we spoke to several community members outside of today’s session who expressed concern about what it means to have affordable housing under this current proposed TIFF.

SPEAKER: Take a look, it’s plan to see; Kevin Plank has lied to me. Port Covington? Exclusionary. Port Covington? Exclusionary.

SPEAKER: But today’s a big deal because this is the first work session where advocates in the community are invited to collaborate directly with city council, this particular committee, to offer amendment language to change the TIFF ordinance. And what we’re here to do is push specifically for creating affordable housing in Port Covington. The developer states that they are creating affordable housing, but it isn’t true. Their definition of affordable housing is affordable to families of four making about $70,000 per year, and that is not representative of what families in Baltimore make.

So what we’re trying to do is require the developer, at its own expense, to create 20 percent of the residential units affordable to people at 30 percent area median income, which is about $26,000 per year.

ROSE: We also had a chance to speak with Real News correspondent Dr. Lawrence Brown, who expressed some concerns over what the city council and developers have already come to agreement on, and how that will benefit city residents here.

BROWN: Well, I think we got to be clear. They’re talking about building a new city, but we have an old city, a pre-existing city, with 622,000 residents that deserve equity, both racially and economically. So when they’re talking about building a whole new city for private investors, I think we have to really take a look at that. We have to look at the fact that our median annual household income is $42,000 in Baltimore City. That means half of our people make less than $42,000. Half of our households. You’re going to have to make $60,000-$80,000 to afford to live in Port Covington.

So what we’re saying is you just can’t build a community with people who are wealthy. You have to build a community that’s based on equity, that’s based on people actually being able to afford it up and down the income scale. And of course, we should have racial equity in terms of not just excluding black people, who are the majority dominant population in this city, but making sure that they’re able to live in that community as well.

ROSE: Now, one supporter of the TIFF project did point out some very questionable statements, and said that Baltimore City is a city of have and have-nots, and you better get on board if you want to be a have rather than a have-not.

The program you were talking about, where you give job placement, will they, those individuals be able to afford to live in Port Covington and to benefit from this project? Because affordable housing hasn’t yet–.

SPEAKER: Some will. Some will. We have people that are in management now, who went through this program–.

ROSE: What about the working–what about the non-[inaud.].

SPEAKER: We have one–we have one individual–he was homeless. And he was an ex-offender and then homeless. And now he, he’s got a great job. He get management–he’s making more money than I am. So I’m telling you–there are neighborhoods I can’t move into. Okay? There are neighborhoods you can’t afford to move into. Just because everybody can’t move into a neighborhood doesn’t mean that’s an indictment on the project. It doesn’t follow logic like–.

ROSE: But if only a select few individuals get to move into those neighborhoods, is it still inequality?

SPEAKER: No.

ROSE: We’ll be following this story as the other two work sessions conclude, as well as when the bill is finally proposed to the city council in full, whether to see if it gets support from the community and whether to see if it gets proposed and accepted. We’ll be following this story at the Real News.

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