Putting Out the Affordable Housing Fire

The Problem

Baltimore’s current affordable housing crisis is yet another fire our government has to put out — despite it smoldering for years, turning into a full blaze right around the same time as the housing bubble and subsequent “bust”, leaving thousands in foreclosure and unable to afford steadily rising rents.

Many cities are faced with the same issue — however, not all cities are faced with a bankrupt affordable housing trust fund.  Seattle and Boston, for example, started thinking about affordable housing in the early 1980s. Hence, they have fairly robust funding sources for a problem that impacts both cities greatly, through construction linkage fees and state/Federal funds.

Baltimore City inclusionary housing trust NSF graphicBaltimore currently has no such funding. We have around $70,000 available. (No, that’s not a typo and nor did I leave off any zeros. We have seventy thousand dollars.) In fact, if you read our inclusionary housing law, you’ll find it has little to no teeth, and no substantive funding plan.

With our government handing out public funding like candy on Halloween, and no affordable housing requirements, we’re yet again faced with another “crisis” that a proactive government could have forseen long ago.

The Solution

The solution isn’t difficult, yet there seems to be little to no political will to implement anything of substance.

  1. Fund the affordable housing trust through various existing fees and funds: rental registration fees, hotel taxes, condo conversion fees, transfer taxes, CDBG funds. Also, construction linkage fees and affordable housing waiver fees.
  2. Revamp the Inclusionary Housing Board and give a qualified board the ability to provide oversight on development projects.
  3. Rewrite the city’s Inclusionary Housing Requirements to ensure non-compliance comes with consequences.
  4. Ensure that the city’s median income is used when calculating affordability, not the Metropolitan Statistical Area’s median.

What You Can Do Now

Contact your City Council representative and tell them you demand equal housing opportunities for all residents, along with real funding for affordable housing development — not a rubber check.

 

 

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