Update on the Coalition’s Fair Housing Advocacy

The BRHC supports locating housing across the region in balanced ways that affirmatively further fair housing and provide low-income families with the choice to raise their children in safe communities with good schools and jobs to support them.

Unfortunately the State of Maryland’s policies that govern the selection and placement of affordable housing have not been balanced, and have been one of the factors impeding fair housing in the Baltimore region. Since its inception in 2004, the Baltimore Regional Housing Campaign has been working to change these policies.

In August 2011, the BRHC filed an administrative complaint with HUD regarding the State’s policy and process for allocating Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) that have largely confined affordable family housing in the region to the same areas that already have most of the low-income housing. (Read the bottom of this email to learn more about the complaint.)

A key element of our complaint is the Local Approval and Contribution requirement, which we claim violates the State’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, as described in the Fair Housing Act. This requirement has effectively prevented the placement of low income housing for families in “higher opportunity” suburban communities with good quality schools, rich employment opportunities, and other public amenities.

  • Our goal is to seek a better balance of low income housing in different kinds of communities – including housing for families with children in safe neighborhoods with high quality schools. We do not believe that low income housing should be restricted to high poverty neighborhoods – families should be free to choose among different types of communities, and not be forced to live only in segregated neighborhoods as a condition of receiving federal housing aid.
  • This effort is good for the city and the region.  We need to balance the choices in the region by locating more affordable housing in areas outside of the economically and racially segregated areas of Baltimore City.
  • Obtaining a better balance of low income family housing in high opportunity suburban areas will also require the state to be creative and to create new financial incentives - and to identify and eliminate barriers – otherwise we will continue to see a very one-sided development pattern, with low income families given only one type of housing choice.

If you would like to show your support for the BRHC’s efforts, please contact Tammy Mayer at 410-539-1369 x107, or email: tammym@cphabaltimore.org.

The BRHC’s Complaint & the State’s Policy Revision Process 

The process of investigation and conciliation has moved more slowly than we anticipated, but we are pleased that the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has initiated a formal review of the policy that regulates the allocation of LIHTC, known as the “Qualified Allocation Plan” (QAP). BRHC members haveactively participated in the hearing and comment process around the new policy, and we are hopeful that many of our concerns will be addressed by the Department.
The BRHC has requested that the State eliminate the requirement to acquire Local Approval and Contribution before a sponsor can submit an application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. This policy institutionalizes NIMBYism, as it requires an affirmative vote from local legislative bodies before an affordable housing development proposal can be reviewed by the State, a requirement that no other type of housing is subjected to. The affordable and fair housing communities have been virtually unanimous in urging the State to eliminate this barrier to the use of federal affordable housing resources.

The Governor’s transition workgroup for the Department of Housing and Community Development even described this issue in their February 2007 report to the Governor. “Not only have these requirements been used to thwart affordable housing production, they may violate the Fair Housing Act or other federal anti-discrimination laws and could result in the loss of federal housing funds.” (p. 22 of the DHCD Transition Workgroup Report)

The Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housingadopted by Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties has similarly called for elimination of the Local Approval requirement. (p. 70 of the Regional Section; #5 in part 9)

The BRHC also recommends incentives in the QAP for family housing developments located in low poverty areas with good schools. Currently, for example, the QAP awards a mere 5 points (out of 315) to proposals to build family housing in these opportunity areas. BRHC recommends increasing this to 10 points. Low income families should not be forced to live in areas with poor schools because that is where government policies have located almost all of the affordable housing.

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