Equity Sought in Baltimore’s Development Strategy

Advocates present solution to Baltimore’s housing crisis

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Story Transcript

MEGAN SHERMAN, TRNN: Baltimore’s penchant for offering tax breaks to downtown developers while ignoring less affluent neighborhoods came under scrutiny Thursday, as stakeholders from across the city presented a more inclusive vision for growth at a University of Maryland conference on unequal development in Baltimore.

PETER SABONIS: The one on the right is a redlining map from 1937 where bankers and the federal government got together, and classified every neighborhood in the city based on age, condition of housing, race, ethnicity, class, religion, economic status of residents. These were areas where banks either stopped issuing mortgages, or if they did, charged exorbitant fees or interest rates.

SHERMAN: Participants discussed the study, titled Community And Land In Trust: Development Without Displacement. The report was developed by the Baltimore Housing roundtable, in partnership with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, and the Public Justice Center. It details an alternative vision for development which focuses on community land trust.

PASTOR TY HULLINGER: CLT is a fairer development method that begins to help us see land and homes on the land as a community to which we should feel that we belong. The structure and governance of a CLT is ruthlessly democratic, and it’s grassroots, and I think that’s where the trust begins, and the trust and love is nurtured. It’s difficult, but it is very viable and very possible.

SHERMAN: Since the 1970s, the city of Baltimore has spent billions on urban development in the downtown corridor without paying much attention to the blighted areas throughout the city.

JAMES ALSTON: Despite being surrounded by several large developments such as M&T Stadium, Oriole ballpark, Harbor hospital, [bresco] incinerator, none has significantly been a source of significant income or livable wages, for Westport residents at large.

SHERMAN: The roundtable’s development plan calls for public bonds to be invested in employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to construct green homes in place of the vast number of vacant homes that are spread across the city.

DANISE JONES-DORSEY: We want to commit $20 million in public bonds annually invested in nonprofit and community land trust. And we are asking for another $20 million in public funds annually to deconstruct vacants, create green space, and provide opportunities for urban agriculture. The other one that’s important is to hire locally-trained city residents, give priority, given to returning citizens from incarceration, for employment and deconstruction and rehabbing vacant property.

SHERMAN: Advocates hope to change the effects of decades of divestment in Baltimore.

JONES-DORSEY: We believe that blight is like the plague. It just creeps along. And if you can stop the blight or reverse it, then you reverse the trend of disinvestment and all of those ensuing challenges and issues.

SHERMAN: This is Megan Sherman and Dharna Noor reporting for the Real News Network.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.