For decades, Baltimore has relied on antiquated trickle-down economic ideas for development — and it’s not working. Politicians operate by offering massive tax incentives to developers to bring in projects and business, all the while crossing their fingers that some of the benefits will extend to community members. Relying on corporate developers to bring jobs and affordable housing for our communities, unsurprisingly has created disparities in wealth, instability and environmental injustice.
The waterfront and downtown area attract redevelopment projects promising to bring jobs, housing and economic development to Baltimore. Just a few miles away, vacant lots plague neighborhoods, affordable housing is rapidly disappearing, homelessness is surging and Baltimoreans struggle to find jobs to support their families. Meanwhile BRESCO’s Wheelabrator trash incinerator billows toxic pollutants out of its smokestack, contributing largely to Baltimore’s fame as the city with the highest emissions-related mortality rate in the country. Clearly, community wellbeing hasn’t been prioritized, but now is the perfect time to change this.
Food & Water Watch recently endorsed a new campaign that will bring tools for development into the hands of community members instead of corporations. The 20/20 Vision for Baltimore, developed by United Workers and the Baltimore Housing Roundtable, will ensure that development in our city is equitable for all Baltimoreans. It prioritizes creating affordable housing, job opportunities and environmental justice.
We’re calling on city leaders to:
- Commit $20 million in public bonds annually invested in community land trust (CLT) housing, deposited in a community-controlled, housing trust fund, and commit $20 million in public bonds annually to deconstruct vacants, create green space, opportunities for urban agriculture.
- Establish a Land Bank (already authorized by city charter) to facilitate disposition of vacant properties or empower Vacants to Values program to facilitate property acquisition for CLT development.
- Hire locally: train city residents, give priority to returning citizens from incarceration for employment in deconstruction and rehabbing vacant property.
- Support community leaders and organizations with implementing or revising community master plans, providing technical support, and supporting CLTs and community groups with leadership development efforts and leadership succession to ensure long-term sustainability and community participation.
Mayor Pugh and many members of the City Council see the value of this vision. We look forward to continuing to hold them accountable to their constituents to ensure this plan to put our communities in charge of the future Baltimore becomes a reality. When we work from the grassroots, amazing things are possible.