August 10, 2018: This month, the Public Justice Center and allies in the Baltimore Housing Roundtable, United Workers, and Housing for All Coalition reached an agreement with Baltimore City leaders to significantly increase the City’s funding of affordable housing. Within the next five years, the City will allocate at least $20 million annually to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Trust Fund will be funded through a combination of legislation from the City Council, general obligation bonds, and other revenue sources.
The agreement is the result of over three years of advocacy. In January 2016, PJC attorney Matt Hill co-authored on behalf of the Baltimore Housing Roundtable the report “Community + Land + Trust: Tools for Development without Displacement,” detailing how Baltimore’s development policies have failed to create sufficient community-driven, permanently affordable housing and good paying jobs for low-income residents. The report outlined several recommendations and launched the Roundtable’s 20/20 Campaign, calling in part for $20 million in annual public investment for deeply affordable, community-controlled housing.
The campaign continued with a 2016 ballot initiative, spearheaded by Housing for All, to create the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Coalition members, including the PJC, collected over 18,000 petition signatures to put the issue on the ballot. That November, voters overwhelmingly approved the Trust Fund. Since then, we have been working through the Roundtable and Housing for All to advocate with City Council President Jack Young, Councilman John Bullock, and Mayor Catherine Pugh to find a dedicated, sustainable revenue source for the Trust Fund. We’re grateful for their commitment to investing in neighborhood-driven development.
As a co-facilitator of the Housing for All Coalition and chair of the Roundtable’s policy committee, the PJC’s Matt Hill played an important role in the negotiations that led to this month’s agreement. He expressed optimism about the agreement’s potential impact: “We’re very confident this is a great deal for Baltimore, the residents of Baltimore, and we look forward to development that benefits neighborhoods in the city.” With $20 million per year, Housing for All estimates that the Trust Fund could create and preserve over 4,000 permanently affordable rental and homeowner opportunities; provide fair housing, eviction prevention, and housing counseling services to over 10,600 families; rehabilitate 1,600 vacant properties; support six community land trusts; and employ thousands of City residents in construction and other development-related jobs.
So what’s next? The City Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee will hold a hearing on the amended Fund the Trust Act at 11:00 am on September 27. This legislation would create revenue for the Trust Fund through an excise tax on the transfer of real property valued at or above $1 million. We will advocate for the Council to approve the bill with an effective date as soon as possible. After that, we’ll be advocating with United Workers, the Roundtable, and other partners to direct funds to residents and neighborhoods in the greatest need through sustainable, community-driven initiatives and realize the vision of redeveloping Baltimore without displacing current residents.