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Community Science in Action: Establishing Baltimore’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Community Science, in addition to our consultation, capacity building, and evaluation services, also works on local issues of national importance. There is an affordable housing crisis in Baltimore City, as in all American cities. Over half (53%) of city renters and 40 percent of homeowners pay more than one-third of their income in housing, putting them at risk for housing instability and even homelessness. In Baltimore on any given night, 3,000 people, including children and their families, are homeless. Over 25,000 Baltimore City households, more than half with children, are on the waiting list for desperately needed federal housing assistance, and they will wait as much as 10 years. They are the lucky ones:another 50,000 households applied but were turned away from the waiting list.

Housing Trust Funds help to meet these needs. They are entities established by local or state governments that receive ongoing public or other sources of funding to support the preservation and production of affordable housing and increase opportunities for people to access decent affordable homes. There are over 750 cities, counties, and states that have Housing Trust Funds.

Community Science joined with 15 other organizations, along with the city’s Housing Roundtable and Community Development Network, as part of the Housing for All Coalition, to change the current city charter so that it would enable the establishment of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund (www.HousingForAllBaltimore.org). After collecting 18,000 signatures, the amendment was on the November ballot and was approved by voters across the city.

Baltimore’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund will be able to provide loans or grants for the planning, production, maintenance, or expansion of affordable housing for renters and homeowners. It has the potential to provide capital and operating assistance for the creation of community land trusts that will develop, own, or operate permanently affordable rental housing and assist low- and moderate-income residents to build a path to homeownership. Affordable and fair housing related services to persons of low and moderate income to assist them in obtaining housing and to remain stably housed could also be supported by this fund. The charter amendment does not designate its source of funding, but it does provide a much-needed permanent place for funding of these and other strategies. Oversight will be provided by a resident- and community-organization-dominated commission that will also include representatives of the public and private sectors.

Beneficiaries of this fund will be some of Baltimore's poorest residents, such as renters who earn 30 percent or less of the median area income ($26,000 for a family of four) or homeowners who make 50 percent or less of the area median ($43,350 for a family of four).

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