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CPHA Follows Public Housing Privatization (Citizens Planning and Housing Association)

National Association of Home Builders
(3/21/2014 1:05 AM, Jason Claffey)

Through a program known as Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), the federally controlled Housing Authority of Baltimore City aims to to privatize 4,150 public housing units in Baltimore City. RAD is a pilot program that aims to leverage private funds with public subsidies in order to improve the quality of public housing. If all goes according to plan, over $333,000,000 worth of renovations will be completed over a two year period. The program aims to make use of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Supporters of the program note that until RAD, public housing was the only type of low-income housing that could not access this tax credit.

However, the plan has drawn criticism and controversy. Citizens are concerned about what will happen to residents once the housing is privatized, about private companies profiting off of a public resource, and about what will happen to the over 200 employees who work in the housing that will be privatized.

In response to these concerns, the Baltimore City Council held a hearing on this plan on Wednesday, March 12th. CPHA was one of many concerned and curious resident groups in attendance. City Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano offered sobering statistics regarding the current state of our public housing. Currently, Baltimore has about $800 million worth of capital needs for its public housing complexes while nationwide capital needs for public housing amount to $28 billion. Yet, federal funding is tighter than ever. In 1997, Baltimore had a $27.5 million budget for capital improvements. Today, it only has a capital budget of $4 million. Thus, the Commissioner feels it is necessary to go the route of privatization. According to Commissioner Graziano, privatization will not result in a reduction in housing units and rents will stay the same for tenants.

Public housing was created to house people, not to make profits for private investors. Yet the state of public housing in Baltimore and around the country is deplorable — and given Congress’s ineptitude and unfavorable attitude surrounding affordable housing, that is unlikely to change. There are no easy answers. As the Housing Authority moves forward, CPHA will keep watching.