Community Supported Affordable Housing Bill Faces Challenges

Someone is undercutting the public interest as it relates to an affordable housing bill in the city.
The leaders of some city agencies are pushing to significantly restrict legislation that would require developers to include affordable units in all Baltimore residential projects, but the City Council sponsors of the bill are sticking by their original plan.
The bill, in its original form, the form community advocates refer to as the "strong" bill, is a progressive piece of legislation.
The bill - formally introduced last night - would require residential developers who get major subsidies or who benefit from significant rezoning to reserve as much as 20 percent of the units in a project for low- or moderate-income people. Developers working without subsidies or rezoning would have to offer 10 percent of their project for affordable use.

The legislation would also create a funding stream for an inclusionary housing trust that voters endorsed on the Nov. 7 ballot. Twenty percent of the city's transfer taxes and recordation fees could fill the fund with $10 million or more a year.

The bill also would set up an inclusionary housing board to consider exceptions to the law and measure its effectiveness.
I like this bill because it gives the city a stronger hand when it comes to development deals. If the city is going to go out of its way to give a developer subsidies and the luxury of relaxed zoning rules, that developer needs to be compelled to give something back. 20% of their units seems appropriate, if not a little low.

Its also nice to see the will of the voters expressed with the "inclusionary housing trust".

None of this will matter however, if several city departements have their way.
Late last week, the agencies drafted a substitute ordinance that, among other things, eliminated the funding for the trust fund and the housing board. It also would let developers who do not get subsidies or rezonings off the hook for affordable units.
First, why even have a ballot initiative if the policy behind that initiative is going to be eliminated? I don't even know how to address that.

When it comes to letting "independent" developers off the hook, I am ambivalent. It would be nice to require all new development in the city to provide affordable housing. I am not sure the difference between the amount of subsidized and unsubsidized development in the city. If most development is subsidized, then we shouldn't worry about getting the unsubsidized developers to include affordable units. However, if the majority of development is unsubsidized, it will be necessary to require these developers to include affordable housing.

Advocates of the original "strong" bill will accept nothing less than a bill that targets all development.
"There are too many people working in this city who cannot afford to live in this city, and that injustice cannot continue," he said. "This bill is justice."

The crowd insisted that not just any bill would do. Only a "strong" one.

And by that, said the Rev. Karen Brau, pastor of Amazing Grace in East Baltimore, they mean a bill that includes both a trust fund and a board and targets all residential development.
Supporters of the "strong" bill have been emailing their council members. You can do the same.

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