Like many American cities, Baltimore’s neighborhoods are highly segregated by both race and income.[62,63] Our poorest neighborhoods have a very high vacancy rate. The vast majority of the growth in the market since 2000 has been at the high end. Creating a housing stock that is safe and affordable for our residents and breaking through the structural segregation of the city are both hard jobs that require dramatic changes, not the mere lip service of years past.
The 41st District has homes that should be the centerpieces of vibrant neighborhoods. Instead, a century of segregation and neglect has caused families seeking that lifestyle to leapfrog over those neighborhoods into Baltimore County. The state must revitalize our neighborhoods to ensure that families in Baltimore have a solid foundation upon which to build a better life. While the state and federal governments have not shown interest in giving Baltimore and cities like it the resources they need, there is a way forward.
Faced with a similar situation, Richmond, Virginia changed how it spent government and non-profit resources: Instead of a steady drip of investment spread throughout the city, Richmond decided to concentrate the money in particularly blighted neighborhoods until the neighborhoods were able to run without much government money. Called Neighborhoods in Bloom (NiB), the program created a significant and sustained increase in property values for the selected neighborhoods. In the targeted areas property values increased as much as six dollars for every dollar spent. This program brings concentrated investment that creates real, lasting change - one neighborhood at a time.
Baltimore continues to be plagued by lead paint poisoning, especially of children. While Maryland has made enormous strides in the last twenty years, cutting cases by 86%, the fact that cases persist is unacceptable. The state’s laws on lead paint require large amounts of self-reporting and self-checking and the funding provided to enforce these laws is entirely inadequate to the task. The state needs to increase funding to the Department of the Environment to allow inspectors to actively sweep non-compliant properties. In addition, penalties for failing to register a pre-1978 property or get it inspected should be dramatically increased. With adequate funding and legislative support we can rid our city and our state of this problem and save families from the costs, both economic and emotional, of suffering from lead paint poisoning.
For neighborhoods with large vacant lots the state should expand programs that cooperate with local community groups that have the resources, knowledge, and enthusiasm to clean up their own neighborhoods. Vacant lots and houses are public health concerns that affect the physical and mental health of those forced to live around them. Cleaning them up improves residents lives and increases the value of their houses.
The vast majority of new development in Baltimore is for the wealthy, forcing low income residents into worse housing or away from their old neighborhoods. Real estate development is a risky industry that too often involves delays, especially when affordable units are being built. Maryland, like Massachusetts before it, should put in place laws that allow red tape to be cut through in order to build affordable housing in neighborhoods without enough of it. When local zoning boards are given more control their neighborhoods become more and more segregated. Maryland should give out subsidies to aid affordable development in these areas and clear red tape if it is hampering these developments. If municipalities still won’t build affordably then the state should guarantee that quality affordable units are built.
Lastly, we must take care of what affordable housing exists now. Inexpensive units are often allowed to fall into disrepair and the response is typically to crack down on code violations. This is a necessary step but struggling owners also need help to pay for these repairs. Residents will ultimately save money if their buildings are kept liveable and the government is not forced to pay for rebuilding. Neighborhoods with affordable homes and excellent schools provide the foundation of a strong pathway to upward mobility.
Redevelop neighborhoods into vibrant destinations for young families looking for more space outside of downtown.
Focus investment on a few neighborhoods at a time to get them back to viability.
Scale up the City’s work with community groups to clean and green vacant lots that continue to threaten public health in Baltimore.
Allow the state to cut through red tape and speed up affordable developments in areas with housing out of the reach of most residents.
Create subsidies for areas that work with developers to get affordable units built.
Provide money for upkeep of existing stock of affordable units so that owners can comply with regulations.
62 Silver, Nate. The Most Diverse Cities are Often the Most Segregated. FiveThirtyEight. May 1, 2015.
63 Fry, Richard, and Paul Taylor. The Rise of Residential Segregation by Income. Pew Research Center. August 1, 2012.
64 McCoy, Terrence. “Baltimore has More Than 16,000 Vacant Houses. Why Can’t the Homeless Move in?” The Washington Post. May 12, 2015.
65 America’s Rental Housing, 2017. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2017, p. 2-3.
66 Accordino, Galster, and Tatian, The Impacts of Targeted Public and Non-Profit Investment on Neighborhood Development, 2005, p.iii.
67 Owens, Rossi-Hansberg, and Sarte, Housing Externalities: Evidence from Spatially Concentrated Urban Revitalization Programs. 2008, p. 1-2.
68 Broadwater, Luke, and Timothy B. Wheeler, “Lead Paint: Despite Progress, Hundreds of Maryland Children Still Poisoned,” The Baltimore Sun. December 5, 2015.
70 Branas, Charles. “More Than Just an Eyesore: Local Insights and Solutions on Vacant Land and Urban Health.” Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine Vol. 90, no. 3 (2012), p. 420-421.
71 America’s Rental Housing, 2017. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2017, p. 2-3.
72 Joint Venture Guidebook: A Resource for Developing Affordable and Supportive Housing. Columbia, MD: Enterprise Community Partners, February 2018, p. 5-6.
73 Khare, Amy, and Marisa Novara, Two Extremes of Residential Segregation: Chicago’s Separate World’s and Policy Strategies for Integration. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2017, p. 10-11.
74 Ibid, 11.
75 Ibid, 11.
76 Lung-Amam, Willow, Ph.D., An Equitable Future for the Washington, D.C. Region?: A “Regionalism Light” Approach to Building Inclusive Neighborhoods. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2017, p. 4.