Baltimore will spend $20 million dollars a year on an affordable housing trust, with funding coming from two excise taxes on real estate transactions over one million dollars and other allocations. The trust will be used to create, rehabilitate and preserve more than 4,100 units of affordable housing in the next decade.
In 2015, NESRI and its partners and allies, including United Workers, released a ground-breaking report: Community + Land + Trust. Out of that report, we jointly launched the 20/20 campaign. We demanded Baltimore divest from speculation that was creating displacement for communities of color and poor communities, and invest in rehabbing empty homes to create community land trusts with permanently affordable housing. We also highlighted this campaign as part of our 2017 brief Financing Human Dignity: Taxing Corporate Speculation to Bring Equitable Housing to Scale, and the policy proposals in our New Social Contract, report released this summer. The commitment to invest in the fund last week marks a crucial victory in this campaign.
“This is an agreement that came from the power of the residents on the ground,” notes Destiny Watford of United Workers, a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. The deal was fueled by a petition generating 10,000 signatures to put a Charter Amendment on the ballot demanding funding of the affordable housing trust, an expression of direct and participatory democracy that gave city leaders the ability to push back on private interests.
While the business community fought every step of this process, community members such as 71-year old Sharon Hunt, board member of the Charm City Land Trust, felt quite differently. Hunt explained that after the city gives developers generous tax breaks, “the affordable housing is nowhere to be found when the rebuilding is done.” Hunt envisions “A neighborhood that provides housing affordable to the people who have anchored this community for decades.”
After decades of displacement, erasing whole neighborhoods through gentrification, housing bubbles that rock the stability of families, inflated land prices that lead to concentration of wealth, NESRI stands with Baltimore communities building a new social contract that changes our fundamental relationship to land and housing. Community land trusts and community control of land represent a new way forward. The 200 community land trusts currently in existence in the United States have shown tremendous stability, shielding families from threats such as the foreclosure crisis and unchecked rising housing costs. Today’s community-driven victory is historic because it offers a strategy to bring this model to scale while putting the brakes on the kind of real estate speculation that threatens the human right to housing in communities everywhere. You can read more about the victory in this report from Next City, and the Maryland Daily Record.