Letters To The Editor


October 01, 2007

Razing more homes hurts the city's poor

One of the central tragedies in Stephen Kiehl's excellent and disturbing article, "City razing homes, not building them" (Sept. 27), is that there are no plans for what new housing will come next.

With 20,000 people on the public housing waiting list and thousands of units demolished, the time to replace the units being razed is now.

If that can't happen, we at least need a commitment from the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to replace the units demolished on a one-for-one basis.

What's left unstated in the article is something that has become clear to public housing residents - a lot of the "affordable" housing to be rebuilt at the six sites identified in the article will not be affordable for them.

That is the curse of the kind of mixed-income housing developments created by HABC.

The number of units to be redeveloped by HABC under its current plans will never replace the number of units being demolished.

And the waiting list for housing will only grow.

Greg Countess


The writer is an attorney for Maryland Legal Aid.

For years, it seems that the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has been on a mission to substantially downsize the inventory of public housing units available to extremely low-income families in Baltimore while creating little or no replacement housing.

And to learn that HABC now intends to use the city's affordable-housing fund to raze more units just adds salt to the wounds.

The mayor's office, along with more than 150 advocates, government officials, service providers and other experts, has been working tirelessly to create Baltimore's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

If city leadership is serious about its commitment to end homelessness, it must take immediate action to reverse the loss of affordable housing.

As a first step, the city should adopt a local policy requiring one-for-one replacement of all public or other low-income housing units demolished.

Carolyn Johnson


The writer is a managing attorney for the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

City, county destroy affordable housing

I don't know which is worse: Baltimore's using its affordable-housing trust to demolish affordable housing without any concrete plan to replace the lost housing ("City razing homes, not building them," Sept. 27), or Baltimore County's using state Program Open Space monies to build parks where affordable housing once stood, again without restoring the lost housing resource ("County opens 25-acre park on Wilson Point waterfront," Sept. 25).

In most parts of the country, local governments are working to preserve, improve and expand scarce affordable-housing resources.

In the Baltimore region, local government seems to be focused on destroying those resources.

Is it any wonder that working families, disabled people, the homeless, homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure and a whole range of other households on the lower rungs of the economic ladder can't find a decent, safe and affordable place to live?

Barbara Samuels


The writer is a fair-housing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Ethnic strife dooms the surge to failure

The Iraq civil war rages on, and the additional 30,000 U.S. troops sent to that country as part of the surge will ultimately make no practical difference ("Bush, Congress face new war fund clash," Sept. 27).

Why? Because the constant Sunni-Shiite-Kurd rivalry will preclude any central government authority from securing Iraq as a unified nation.

The specter of Vietnam haunted our nation psychologically for 30 years.

I fear the debacle in Iraq will similarly plague the current generation.

Joe Hammell

Waynesboro, Pa.

Ways to encourage healthier workers

The article on employers' attempts to link lifestyle to employment raised some interesting issues ("Get healthy or get fired," Sept. 26). But instead of punishments, some employers may want to consider positive reinforcement for behavior that promotes healthy lifestyles.

Marylanders spend an inordinate amount of time commuting to work, and clogged highways harm public health in many ways - at the macro level, by filling the air with pollution, and at the micro level, by causing individual commuters to feel stress and gain weight while sitting in their cars instead of exercising.

To encourage workers to develop healthier habits without intruding on their civil liberties, employers could look into a few simple solutions.

First, they could encourage workers to live within a specified distance from work, offering fiscal or other incentives.

Second, they could encourage employees to use public transportation by rewarding transit use with the same kinds of subsidies some companies now offer for parking.

Third, they could provide bike racks and shower facilities to make commuting by bike a more realistic option.

Fourth, they could cooperate with government to improve public transportation and make cycling safer.

These solutions are both simple and utopian.

Thomas Carey


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