New regional housing plan highlights the need for homes that are affordable and accessible to 70,000 Baltimore-area families 

BALTIMORE (November 24, 2014) – The Baltimore region will gain economic strength by having communities that provide jobs for its residents, high-quality schools, affordable housing and a transportation infrastructure to support those needs, according to a new regional housing plan released today by the Opportunity Collaborative.

The plan makes recommendations for achieving the crucial regional goal of creating healthy communities where more residents are able to contribute positively to the regional economy. The plan also highlights the challenges facing many Baltimore-area residents who can’t find affordable and accessible housing.

“We have an opportunity to make our communities stronger by making housing affordable for our hard-working firefighters, teachers and retail workers and accessible to our residents with low-incomes or disabilities who are struggling to pay the rent,” said William H. Cole, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation and a co-chair of the Opportunity Collaborative. “It is crucial to our future economic strength that our region come together to meet the needs of our workforce and our cities, towns and neighborhoods.”

The plan shows that there is an unmet housing need for 70,000 low-income households, including 14,000 people with disabilities. It offers recommendations to meet these housing needs through policy initiatives such as adding affordable housing at transit-oriented development sites, integrating Regional Housing Plan elements into state and local plans and the coordination of housing, workforce development and transportation policies.

“Our region needs to make the development, expansion and maintenance of affordable housing a priority for homeowners, renters and special needs populations,” said Kathleen M. Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services, Inc., a nonprofit developer of affordable housing.  “The Opportunity Collaborative’s Regional Housing Plan is a blueprint to making that happen. Implementing the recommendations of this plan will lead to a stronger regional economy.”

Housing is considered affordable if a household is paying 30 percent or less of their gross income on housing costs. The plan’s recommendations for addressing the need for affordable housing include, among others:

  • Adopting policies to avoid and mitigate the loss of housing and to address the unmet need for affordability;
  • Pursuing federal grants and new private funding opportunities;
  • Building capacity in the housing market for family-appropriate homes and their management;
  • Continuing regional cooperation and coordination among public housing agencies;
  • And establishing an on-line regional one stop portal for families.

“Our region, like our nation, is in the midst of a broad housing insecurity crisis,” said Jessica Sorrell, program director for the Mid-Atlantic market at Enterprise Community Partners, the Columbia-based non-profit. “Today more than 70,000 renters in the Baltimore region are spending more than half their monthly income on housing. Approaching our communities’ needs with a regional plan will lead to opportunities for jobs, good schools, transit, and health care.”

Another set of recommendations in the plan focus on connecting housing with transportation infrastructure and jobs through:

  • Maintaining quality transportation infrastructure that connects people from where they live to where they work;
  • Coordinating planned transportation investments with community revitalization strategies;
  • Establishing state-level policy to include affordable housing in transit-oriented developments;
  • Maximizing established asset-building programs to help regional residents invest in their own future;
  • And supporting transportation alternatives to connect people to jobs.

“Our region will not reach its full potential if we fail to meet the needs of our communities and workforce,” said Scot T. Spencer, associate director, Advocacy and Influence at The Annie E. Casey Foundation and co-chair of the Opportunity Collaborative. “Safe, attractive, affordable communities served by high quality schools and accessible by the region’s transportation infrastructure are critical to attracting and retaining jobs.”

With the guidance of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and under the leadership of the Innovative Housing Institute, three organizations carried out the research for the plan: BAE Urban Economics; the Jacob France Institute at the Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore; and the Housing Strategies Group of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland. The evolution of the Regional Housing Plan, which started in 2012, was guided by the Opportunity Collaborative Housing Committee, a diverse set of advisors made up of local and state government representatives, housing development organizations, and housing advocates.  The full study can be found by clicking here.

The Opportunity Collaborative is a consortium made up of local governments, state agencies, universities and non-profit organizations that is developing regional plans for key issues, including sustainable development, housing and workforce development. The collaborative received major funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; its work is coordinated by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

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