Last Friday, the Baltimore Regional Housing Campaign (BRHC) wrote this letter to the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Raymond A Skinner, asking him to use his leverage to persuade the Baltimore County Council to reconsider their veto of a proposed affordable town-home development in Rosedale. The development had previously been approved by both the County and State.
Once again, NIMBY opposition and councilmanic courtesy in Baltimore County have combined to derail affordable rental housing that would serve families with children. The tenor of the dialogue, including the opponents’ use of thinly veiled stereotypes to generate fears of crime, was so over the top it even earned a rebuke from the County Executive, Kevin Kamenetz.
Veteran reporter Barry Rascovar, tells us that no one with a sense of history should be surprised by the County Council’s words or deeds. In a piece aptly titled “Baltimore County’s Housing Exclusion Continues,” Rascovar outlines the shameful history of Baltimore County’s resistance to subsidized housing, a futile effort to keep African Americans bottled up in Baltimore City.
The claims of Councilwoman Cathy Bevins that Rosedale already has too much low-income housing ignores this history and is simply not true. HUD data shows only 16 households with vouchers currently live in Rosedale. There are currently no other subsidized housing developments for families in Rosedale.
Indeed, the proposed Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) development of 50 town-homes would be first newly constructed family housing to be built anywhere in Baltimore County since 1999. Much of the older low-income housing that once served families in Southeastern Baltimore County, nearly 4,000 units, has been bought by the County and demolished. As shown in this map, the County has actively sought LIHTC resources for senior housing, while leaving children and their families out in the cold.
Rosedale may not be the most affluent neighborhood in Baltimore County, but it is hardly a “very poor” area as Councilwoman Bevins claims. The poverty rate in the census tract where the new development would be located is 16.1%, somewhat above the average for the prosperous Baltimore region (11.6%), but close to the national average (14.3%).
The BRHC agrees with Councilwoman Bevins on one point — Baltimore County must do more to develop affordable housing throughout the County, especially in affluent areas. Working to promote LIHTC and other affordable housing in communities that offer a good environment for raising children is at the core of BRHC’s mission. The BRHC invites Councilwoman Bevins and her colleagues on the Council to work with us to identify good locations for family housing in a broad range of neighborhood that share Rosedale’s history of excluding affordable rental housing.
The ball is now squarely in Secretary Skinner’s court. If Secretary Skinner is unable to persuade the County Council to drop their opposition to the development, then he should move forward despite the Council’s action. To withdraw financing and acquiesce in the exclusionary tactics long practiced by Baltimore County, would make the State of Maryland a partner in Baltimore County’s shame. Enough is enough!