New hope on the horizon for revitalizing Baltimore’s troubled public housing

In Baltimore, Maryland, the 75-year-old Perkins Homes complex, home to roughly 1,400 people in about 630 apartments, sits on 17 acres of prime real estate that is seen as a critical link between the rising development on the harbor, the revitalization effort surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the planned transformation of the long-distressed pedestrian mall.

Housing officials say the dilapidated conditions at Perkins Homes, which have no central air-conditioning or washers and driers in units, are unacceptable. They say they plan to break up the concentrated poverty of public housing by building two separate complexes — each of them with units affordable to residents of various incomes. Plans call for 652 units aimed at very low-income people who qualify for public housing. The Housing Authority would oversee these properties, though the developer would manage them.

Another 276 homes, described as “affordable,” are earmarked for tenants earning 60 percent of the area median income; a family of four earning $55,000 would qualify.

On April 17, 2018, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) Executive Director Janet Abrahams received notification from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that HABC has been selected as a finalist for Fiscal Year 2017 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant.

If won, the funds would go towards HABC’s Perkins Transformation Plan. The long-term vision of the Perkins Transformation Plan is to transform Perkins Homes and the surrounding community into a Community of Choice, that is inviting, promotes resident pride and unity among neighbors, and is integrated into the surrounding area. The plan focuses on:

  • The redevelopment of Perkins Homes, a 629-unit public housing development in disrepair, to support and accommodate existing and future residents of all income types, family composition, and lifestyles;
  • A coordinated and targeted neighborhood plan that combines infrastructure improvements economic development, and public safety strategies; and
  • A comprehensive human services plan that supports families to increase economic self-sufficiency and improve educational outcomes over the long term.

HUD received 20 applications for the highly competitive award and selected six finalists from the pool of applicants to move on to the next round, one of which is HABC and the City.

Creating a new era of neighborhood investment and revitalization – and particularly in those areas of our City that have been neglected for too long – is among my Administration’s highest priorities,” said Mayor Pugh. “We are grateful to be included among the finalists for the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant program. We are hopeful that the merits of our plans to implement the Perkins, Somerset, Old Town Transformation Project will result in the successful final consideration by HUD. These communities have waited long enough for what promises to be a new and promising beginning.

In November 2017, HABC and the City of Baltimore jointly submitted a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) grant application to HUD to redevelop Perkins Homes and the surrounding community.

The PSO Transformation Plan calls for the demolition and redevelopment of Perkins Homes into a vibrant mixed income community with affordable and market rate housing, a new 21st Century school, new community amenities and opportunities, neighborhood improvements, and a supportive services plan aimed at helping families meet their goals.

We are pleased to be one of the six finalists in this extremely competitive Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant announcement, and to take the next step in the Perkins, Somerset, Old Town (PSO) Transformation Project,” said Director Abrahams. “We thank HUD for recognizing our long-term vision for the project, which is to improve resident success and restore the vibrancy of Perkins Homes and the surrounding community by replacing distressed public housing with high quality housing for people from all income levels.”

HABC officials plan to ask the city to provide a subsidy of $50 million to $100 million for a private redeveloper—Beatty Development Group—which plans to rebuild a wide swath of East Baltimore, including an overhaul of the public housing complex just north of glitzy Harbor East.

It is the first time such a tax incentive has been considered for an affordable-housing project.

HUD expects to announce final grantees in July of 2018.

All images courtesy of HABC.

See May 12, 2018 Baltimore Sun article by Luke Broadwater about the proposed tax increment financing (TIF) of this project.

Learn more about the Perkins, Somerset, Old Town Transformation Plan.

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