Housing Questionnaire Candidate Response: Dea Thomas

Dea Thomas (D) is running for State Delegate in District 46.

Baltimore City has 30,000+ vacant homes. Do you have additional ideas for cleaning up the blight that isn’t a rehash or continuation of previous plans? And how do you propose to pay for your plan?

Vacancy and blight are systemic issues. It is simply not enough to address these issues on a case by case basis. While streamlining the process of transferring vacant properties into the hands of responsible homeowners through Land Banking models is important, continuing to improve Baltimore City’s job market will go a long way to reducing vacancies and eliminating blight. Working to leverage private sector as well as local, state and federal workforce development dollars to increase access to gainful employment will further improve Baltimore City’s economy.

As Delegate, I will support incentivizing the creation of environmentally responsible green spaces following demolition. The only way this can happen is if the community is included in the process. We must also incentivize developers to prevent the destruction of community housing that has historical or cultural significance.

The two fastest-growing income groups in Baltimore are those who earn $75,000 and up, and those who earn $25,000 and below. Middle-income families, who earn approximately $41,000, are struggling to afford rental housing. How do you propose to keep median-income renters from leaving the city without pushing them into homeownership they may not want or be able to afford?

Growth in income inequality is the primary driving force to affordability in the rental housing market. As Delegate, I will work to raise the minimum wage so that we reduce income inequality. We need to do more to give middle income families a path from renting to owning. As Delegate, I would support “live in the city, work in the city” housing vouchers or incentives to keep families in Baltimore. We should make every effort to market living in the city, and make it easier for people to understand the benefits of continuing to call Baltimore home.

How do you plan to address lead paint poisoning in our city, a problem that has a disparate impact on low-income Black families?

Lead paint impacts low-income Black families, and it also disproportionately effects our youth. Children who are exposed to lead, even lower levels, have reduced attention spans and increased antisocial behavior. Studies have shown that children exposed to lead have a reduced chance of educational attainment.

Baltimore City, and the State of Maryland, cannot simply rely on the use of federal grants to reduce lead paint exposure. As Delegate, I will support legislation that provides dedicated funding for lead paint remediation and treatment targeted to address this issue in Baltimore City. Two additional state-based solutions are to update the lead paint database and reporting, and increase funding for lead testing compliance. This would attract more developers by having a more consistent and predictable process, with less cost. The lead paint databases need to be updated and more responsible about reporting.

Is there anything else voters should know about your approach to affordable and safe housing?

My experience working at the local and federal levels has taught me that we must utilize and leverage public dollars to encourage private sector involvement and investment to help solve the systemic issues that cause affordability, safety and public health issues in our housing.