With an array of new funding sources and a Department of Housing and Community Development that’s now independent of the Housing Authority, the city plans to work with communities to fulfill their visions for short-term growth.
Mayor Catherine Pugh and Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman announced their planned “new era of neighborhood investment” at her weekly press conference today. One of the key points of the “new vision” is designated impact investment areas in four areas of the city.
Each one is generally low-income, has a strong culture and local history, existing for-profit and nonprofit organizations to help push for redevelopment, borders an area with
“strong markets/and or anchor institutions and have strong assets such as high-quality architecture,” according to the newly published plan (see, starting on p. 38). All of the areas also have, or are working on a consensus for, a long-term vision, and are places where DHCD has amassed or can assemble “a critical mass of vacant properties.”
The Park Heights zone is the only one specific to a single neighborhood. The East Baltimore zone includes Johnston Square, Broadway East, East Baltimore Midway and Coldstream Homestead Montebello. The West Baltimore zone includes Penn North, Druid Heights and Upton, all of which run along Pennsylvania Avenue. And the Southwest Baltimore zone includes Franklin Square, Poppleton, Union Square, Hollins Market, Mount Clare, Washington Village and Pigtown.
In each one, Braverman said today, DHCD officials will talk with community leaders, nonprofits, anchor institutions (i.e. for East Baltimore, the EBDI zone; for West Baltimore, the Avenue Market and Shake and Bake, etc.) and philanthropies to develop 10-year plans for development and community growth.
Much of this is intended to help existing homeowners by boosting their home values, and to bring new ones in.
“It’s ultimately about supporting and maintaining affordability, ensuring that our long-term homeowners can benefit from the changes that we expect to see going forward, and that we ensure we are forward-thinking, inclusive and intentional about how we work in neighborhoods across the city,” Braverman said.
There are a few big changes working in the city’s favor to make all of this happen, Pugh and Braverman noted. For one, DHCD is no longer tasked with overseeing public housing and Section 8 properties since Pugh has helped separate it from the Housing Authority, meaning DHCD can now put its attention and resources to helping develop distressed areas.
Secondly, there are several new funds offering money the city can leverage. One is the voter-approved Affordable Housing Trust Fund, expected to grow to $20 million annually (free of any typos in its funding equation, of course).
There’s also the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund, which Pugh created to invest in “historically overlooked” areas. It draws on $52 million in revenue from the leasing of city-owned parking garages, and that amount should continue growing with smart financial investments, the mayor noted today.
And there’s the Community Catalyst Grant program, which gives out $5 million in grants to neighborhood associations, faith-based groups and others for revitalization projects.
Braverman said this morning that each of the funds will “work in complementary ways.” He also noted that this is all a “collaborative process” relying on communication with stakeholders from these neighborhoods.
While the plan focuses a good deal on lifting up those four zones, it also considers the imprecisely defined “middle neighborhoods.” The vision describes those as places where working- and middle-class residents live in homes that create generational wealth by retaining or growing in value, but the properties are larger than the smaller units commonly built today, or their owners are often aging and cannot afford to maintain them.
DHCD said it will use city funds to incentivize current or would-be homeowners to maintain or purchase those properties, and will strictly enforce code on vacants to swiftly move them into city receivership and put them up for auction, where they can be purchased.
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