Nearly 200 people gathered at the War Memorial Building in Baltimore on May 13, rallying in favor of the “20/20 Campaign” introduced by the Baltimore Housing Roundtable. The campaign calls for the city to pledge $20 million in public bonds each year to create green space by tearing vacate houses and $20 million in public funds to a trust fund for affordable housing.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was in attendance at the rally. She spoke to the crowd saying she was deeply troubled by the levels of unemployment and homelessness in Baltimore.
“We cannot afford to have people living on the streets of our city,” Pugh said. “Regardless of what your status is, everybody deserves a place to live. The vision for 20/20 is one that I support. When we lift the least, we lift all of us.”
United Workers, an advocacy group, founded the Baltimore Housing Roundtable in 2013, by bringing 25 different organizations together to confront affordable-housing issues in the city.
The group advocates the city to set up a land bank to expedite the conversion of vacant houses and properties to affordable housing and grant priority to ex-offenders for employment and training to work on such projects. It recommended “deconstruction” a process that will allow for more job opportunities and recycling of building materials.
The Baltimore Sun conducted a yearlong investigation, focusing on the treatment of low-income renters in Baltimore. The findings reveal that Baltimore’s rent court consistently favors landlords over tenants, even though the rental properties are not up to code: no heat, rodent or insect infestations, suspected lead paint hazards and leaking roofs.
Chairman of Baltimore’s Housing Roundtable, Matt Hill, said Baltimore’s rent court is “overflowing” and it exhibits the negligence of “trickle-down economics.” A multimillion-dollar investment in constructing affordable houses and tearing down vacant properties would produce decent jobs, while building up neighborhoods.
While 12,000 jobs were added over the past three years in Baltimore, the job growth has failed to boost the city’s poorest neighborhoods. One-third of Baltimore’s children and a quarter of its residents live at or below the poverty line.