the Neighborhood Design Center


May 11, 2021

Building Affordable Housing

photo cred: Next City

The pandemic has made housing and rental prices even more complex. According to a story in the Washington Post, the cost of rent in high-end luxury apartments has dropped while rent in low-quality apartments has increased over the last year. 

Factors such as gentrification and the desire of higher-income folks for more space and an escape from city life during the pandemic have exacerbated existing disparities. What cities can do to support and better protect low-income communities?

One step is being taken by the City of Baltimore. The Department of Housing & Community Development announced last month that it is awarding $2.25 million to three community land trusts to create permanently affordable single-family homes. According to the department’s press release, each of these organizations -- Charm City Land Trusts, North East Housing Initiative (NEHI) Land Trust, and South Baltimore Community Land Trust -- will receive $75,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The funds will support the creation of 26 new homes made affordable to residents earning less than half the area median income- no more than $36,400 and $52,000 yearly income for a family of four. 

The community land trusts will own and manage the properties and the homes will be sold to qualified buyers. To keep these houses permanently affordable, homeowners agree to sell to other low-income buyers when they move, splitting the equity with the land trust.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said, promoting “equitable community development in our historically redlined neighborhoods is at the top of [his] agenda. Community land trusts are one tool to provide permanent affordable housing across our neighborhoods, while helping close the racial wealth gap.”

This project was made possible because United Workers, a group of community activists, pushed the Affordable Housing Trust Fund along at several junctures. They organized door-to-door signature campaigns for the original ballot measure that created the fund and pressured officials to allocate money toward it. Grants like these are vital to community land trusts because they help to preserve and create long-term affordability.

NDC supports work that secures long-term affordability and creates pathways to homeownership for more people in our communities. We value the groundbreaking work of our partners at land trusts across the city and are proud to partner with NEHI and the South Baltimore Land Trust (SBLT). With NEHI, we are recommending responsive and easy to understand housing upgrades for NEHI homes and convening community members to co-create a plan that focuses investment on projects that improve the streetscape and open space in the community. Shout out to Garrick Good, NDC Board President, and Executive Director of NEHI. 

Our involvement with South Baltimore Land Trust includes conceptual designs for affordable, net zero housing units in Curtis Bay, with the support of design volunteers Timmy Aziz and Jason Neal. The SBLT is pursuing passive-house energy efficiency standards in its first project. Reducing pollution in the community and lower energy consumption overall is an important factor is the overall well being of the community as this neighborhood also has high pollution rates and lower life expectancy than other parts of the city - another inequity we will save for a later day. 

We commend the efforts and progress the Baltimore Department of Housing & Community Development is making to move toward a more equitable community.