HUD Mandates ‘Affordable Housing’ in Affluent Baltimore Suburbs

By Susan Jones | March 25, 2016 | 7:26 AM EDT

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration has started its push to expand low-income housing into "higher opportunity areas."

The Department of Housing and Urban Development last week announced a "landmark" settlement agreement with Baltimore County that will serve as a catalyst to "promote housing mobility" and "address residential segregation."

The goal is to move low- and very-low-income people out of the city and into the suburbs.

“Every person deserves a fair shot at opportunity, and that starts with a decent, safe, and affordable place to call home,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in the March 15 announcement. “This agreement sets Baltimore County on a path to stronger, more inclusive communities where everyone can enjoy equal access to opportunity."

The agreement stems from a complaint filed with HUD in 2011 by the Baltimore County branch of the NAACP; a fair housing group; and three individuals who claimed Baltimore County had failed to "affirmatively further fair housing."

To settle that complaint, HUD is requiring Baltimore County to spend $30 million ($3 million annually for ten years) to create 1,000 affordable housing units, either through new construction or rehabilitation.

The units will be geographically dispersed in "neighborhoods that provide access to opportunity." The 46-page settlement includes a chart (Exhibit F) listing the 116 relatively affluent census tracts surrounding Baltimore City where most of the 1,000 housing units must be located.

At least 500 of the units must have three or more bedrooms to accommodate families with children; and at least one-third of the units must be accessible and made available to people with disabilities.

The housing units must be completed over a period of 12 years.

In addition, the county must provide 2,000 Housing Choice Vouchers to help families gain access to "higher opportunity neighborhoods."

The county must "proactively market the units to potential tenants who are least likely to apply, including African Americans families and families with a member who has a disability."

The county must, within 180 days, introduce (and keep trying to pass) legislation that prohibits housing discrimination based on a person's lawful source of income. This means a landlord can't refuse someone housing if he or she plans to pay the rent with Social Security or other public assistance instead of a paycheck (job!).

And finally, under the settlement agreement, the county must pay $150,000 to the three individuals who complained to HUD in 2011.

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal housing law allows people to challenge zoning laws and other housing practices that have a "disparate" or harmful impact on minority groups, even if there is no proof that the discrimination was intentional.

And two weeks after that Supreme Court ruling, HUD issued a regulation intended to help poor people move into "communities that are rich with opportunity," as HUD Secretary Castro phrased it at the time.


Also See:
Housing Redistribution: HUD Plans to Move Subsidized Housing Into Areas 'Rich With Opportunity'