Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series on how Build Back Better Act funds will help public housing authorities better serve their residents and communities.
For the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), the Build Back Better Act (BBB), which passed the House of Representatives on December 19 and is awaiting action in the Senate, is critical to preserving, maintaining, and modernizing their properties. This type of investment could serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of many underserved communities throughout the City of Baltimore. BBB funds could be transformative for their residents, who would benefit from vastly improved living conditions and quality of life, enhanced security and safety measures, access to amenities and resources such as job training and employment opportunities, and improved health and education outcomes resulting from these significant investments.
HABC’s public housing inventory currently consists of 7,219 units. The majority of HABC’s developments are located in neighborhoods that have suffered decades of disinvestment with high poverty, unemployment, and crime, as well as limited or almost no access to amenities such as grocery stores, green space/recreation, high performing schools, financial institutions, and health care providers. To date, HABC has been able to use federal resources to leverage over $730 million in investment through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to preserve 3,745 public housing units at 23 sites. An additional 2,078 units are planned for RAD conversion. The remainder of HABC’s public housing sites have an average age of nearly 80 years, with 20-year capital needs amounting to over $575 million just to address immediate physical needs. BBB funds would provide a significant investment towards HABC’s estimated $2 billion backlog in capital needs to modernize and redevelop these sites.
There are currently 13,550 residents living in HABC’s public housing properties, all of whom would benefit from improved living conditions as a result of BBB funding. There are also over 12,400 households on their public housing waiting list, with an average wait time of over 6 years, who could potentially benefit from new public and affordable housing created with BBB funding. These funds could also be used to rehabilitate approximately 100 to 130 of HABC’s scattered site properties that are currently in disrepair and/or vacant.
An expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program through BBB funds would help 2,193 people who are experiencing homelessness on any given night in Baltimore. When combined with Baltimore’s current number of people receiving vouchers through a combination of tenant-based, project-based, special funded and mobility vouchers, more than 20,000 people will not experience homelessness because of federal assistance.
CLPHA urges Congress to quickly pass BBB to help make transformations like these possible in communities like Baltimore.