Two months after activists “faced off” with Baltimore City Housing and Community Development (HCD) Commissioner Michael Braverman over the lack of funding to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF), Braverman pledges $2 million to start in the fund and another $100,000 from the city to community land trusts (CLTs) around the city. Officials will meet on April 5 to discuss the $100K in operating funds and how use them to support CLTs. Within the next 30 days, HCD will submit names to Mayor Pugh for the Affordable Housing Task Force, and the Mayor will appoint them and start the task force within 90 days. Commissioner Braverman shared this news at last night’s Baltimore Housing Roundtable (BHR) meeting in the 2640 space.
These promises fulfill the current requests of BHR. Obviously $2 million is not $20 million for housing and $20 million for vacants that the Baltimore Housing Roundtable is campaigning for in their 20/20 Campaign, but it’s a start!
Commissioner Braverman also proposed a new funding source for the AHTF: a $15 annual licensing fee for single and 2 family dwellings. Currently, only dwellings with 3 or more units pay a licensing fee, so this would be an entirely new funding source for the city. While he admitted that he had no idea how much money the $15 fee would earn annually, that the funding would 100% go to the AFTF.
The meeting was an exchange of ideas between CLTs, BHR, Housing our Neighbors, City councilmembers, and HCD, with the audience also being allowed to ask questions and bring up concerns. Commissioner Braverman was very receptive to the feedback and said that he’s “not going anywhere” and is happy to continue this dialogue in the coming months.
While each of these groups deserve their own post, here’s a short summary of their goals and visions:
CLTs: Four were present: North East Housing Initiative, Central Baltimore CLT, Charm City CLT, and Greater Baybrook CLT. Each has the goal of creating community-owned affordable housing for residents that would offer mortgages for lower than what current residents are paying for rent. North East Housing Initiative just bought their first home in the Four by Four neighborhood and are working with various partners (PNC Bank, Catholic Charities, Home Depot, and Weinburg to make this vision a reality. In Greater Baybrook, they have raised over $50,000 from over 500 people in order to start purchasing some of the 500 vacants in the Brooklyn/Curtis Bay area.
BHR: As stated above, is pushing the 20/20 campaign to increase affordable housing in Baltimore. Their vision is “vibrant non-speculative, permanently affordable, housing sector exists that consists of public housing, non-profit housing, shared-equity housing, and limited-equity housing controlled by residents & the communities in which they reside.”
Housing our Neighbors: This is a grassroots group that is pushing to fund the trust by enacting a 1% fee on vacant house owner transfers. They did a survey of the McElderry Neighborhood and found that there were 381 vacants and $30 million had been transferred between them. These money transfers are currently bringing zero value to the neighborhood.
City Councilmembers John Bullock (district 9) and Edward Reisinger (district 10) are working on legislation to help fund the trust. They will sit down and look at all of the ideas for additional trust funding sources.
HCD: They want to improve conditions for people that are already housed and for people who are homeless. In addition to the ideas stated above, they want to put more efforts into:
- eviction prevention and addiction prevention
- settlement assistance for new homeowners
- create and/or boost deferred loan programs for homeowners to make repairs
- weatherization programs and slip and fall programs
- put roofs on vacant houses next door to homeowners
- low income housing tax credits for people 30% below area median income
Through the Project CORE program, they are strategically demolishing blocks and half blocks and have created local, community jobs through deconstruction. They want to create more jobs for stabilizing properties.
One goal of theirs came under scrutiny: to preserve current inventory of affordable housing. Audience members were concerned because another 1,300 public housing units are projected to be demolished. There was also concern about all of the units in Perkins Homes actually being replaced. While Braverman couldn’t directly answer to public housing (this is now a different department), he said that even if units aren’t directly replaced 1 for 1, that the same number of people housed will be maintained through vouchers.What he would love to see is vouchers used with CLTs to create more permanent supportive housing for the homeless!
Overall, I’m optimistic about these promises and goals. I also appreciate Braverman’s transparency and commitment to community groups, and look forward to seeing communication between HCD and grassroots groups continue.