Visions of Revitalization Compete in Baltimore

A grassroots housing plan in Baltimore would keep control over neighborhood revitalization, and its benefits, in communities.
April 27, 2016, 2pm PDT | Elana Eden
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Jon Bilous

The "20/20 Vision for Fair Development" plan calls for the city to commit to an annual investment of $40 million. Half would go toward demolishing vacant and blighted properties; the other half would be a long-term investment in plans to rebuild permanently affordable housing through community land trusts.

Community land trusts, or CLTs, are nonprofits that establish communally owned property under a democratic governance structureBaltimore Housing Roundtable, the coalition behind the proposal, says joint land ownership offers the possibility of neighborhood revitalization, and housing, without the risk of displacement:

"When these community controls are leveraged against market forces, neighborhoods can ensure a communally managed recycling of ownership, and avoid the frenzied churn of renters and developers commonly associated with boom-bust speculation and gentrification."

A city board recently took a different tack, approving a $600-million urban revitalization program from the governor that will incentivize new development on demolished properties.

"Project C.O.R.E." is the type of plan to which CLTs are proposed as an alternative. Advocates say the strategy of attracting private developers with little community accountability can be difficult to distinguish from an attempt to attract a new community to fill private developments. A January report from the Housing Roundtable reads:

"When significant numbers of people are constantly threatened with homelessness and the city can offer only trickle­ down development that, if successful, will further increase housing costs, the only reasonable conclusion is that involuntary displacement of a certain class of residents is a foreseeable part of the city’s plan and policy."

The Nation delves deeper into competing visions for Baltimore, and the possibilities for revitalization without gentrification.

Full Story:
Published on Monday, April 11, 2016 in The Nation
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