Don Fry Commentary on WYPR
Baltimore City faces an intriguing confluence of opportunity.
The Baltimore City Council is considering legislation to ensure the development of more workforce housing – defined as affordable to households earning between $43,000 and $86,000.
However, mandates and provisions in the proposed legislation, though well-intentioned, have elicited near unanimous concerns from developers who would be impacted. The unintended consequence of the legislation, as written, would be to discourage – not nurture – the creation of new mixed-income development in the city, developers caution.
Despite current strengths, the city’s housing market and development still rest on a delicate balance of economic factors, they say.
Everyone wants an effective affordable housing policy but advocates have so far been unwilling to act on developers’ constructive suggestions to address market realities.
Meanwhile, State planners briefing lawmakers in Annapolis last month called Baltimore City a potential “reservoir” for up to 25 percent of the estimated 8,000 new households that could relocate to the region as a result of federal base realignment and closure.
New city residents could come from the influx of 15,000 federal employees slated to relocate to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Ft. Meade in the next 10 years, and from the estimated 20,000 service and contractor jobs also expected to follow them.
Baltimore City has many neighborhoods within very reasonable commutes to one or both bases. What’s more, the city has the land capacity and the infrastructure to absorb the growth, say planning experts.
Residential developers clearly see potential within city borders. In addition to high-profile, upscale downtown waterfront residential projects, developers are also eyeing moderately-priced projects that would revitalize middle-class neighborhoods in other areas of Baltimore City away from the water, but near highways, transit and retail centers.
The city stands at one of those moments where substantial progress on a critical issue can be achieved if our political, civic and business leaders can work together to successfully match affordable housing policy to the market opportunities that exist.
For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.