Making housing affordable [Letter]

January 19, 2014

A recent letter to the editor and commentary spoke to the need to start thinking outside the box to transform our housing system in Baltimore ("Baltimore's quest for affordable housing," Jan. 12).

Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for Baltimore City residents. We see that in the 150,000 cases that come through rent court each year, in the 7,000 foreclosure filings and in the thousands of people sleeping in city shelters and on our streets.

Housing is a human right, and everyone is worthy of a home with dignity. But how can we realize this basic right in our own city? Not by worshiping the private housing market's profit god.

We need to start thinking differently. One answer is shared-equity housing — a model that takes housing out of the speculative market and provides permanently affordable housing for both homeowners and renters.

Through a non-profit partnership and ground lease restrictions, community land trusts ensure that housing stays affordable for generations. It also ensures that decisions about the development of these homes are controlled by the community, not by developers or politicians.

This is affordable housing for the purpose safety and security — not merely for the exchange value inherent in buying and selling for profit.

The idea is not new. It is happening in over 200 communities across the U.S and has developed over 10,000 permanently affordable housing units, along with creating spaces for community centers, gardens, and green spaces across the country.

Some community land trusts, such as Dudley Neighbors Inc., in Boston, used vacant housing to revitalize their neighborhood. The land trust transformed 250 vacant lots and homes into permanently affordable housing units for the community.

Baltimore's 40,000 vacant homes can be used as an asset for the purpose of providing affordable housing for all. This is fair housing development that puts people's needs over profit.

Rachel Kutler, Baltimore

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