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Activists gather at City Hall to protest privatization of Baltimore’s public housing

Around 30 people gathered in front of Baltimore’s City Hall Monday afternoon to protest the privatization of the city’s public housing.

The Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, an organization known for its protests against alleged police brutality, hosted the “March and Rally to Save Public Housing."

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The event began with a march from the city’s Douglass Homes in East Baltimore, where the Rev. Annie Chambers, 79, lives in a 1-bedroom apartment. Its first-floor ramp accommodates the wheelchair she uses to get around. A cluster of green potted plants lines the entrance.

Wallace Craig, president of the Public Housing Resident Advisory Board (RAB) of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, leads a rally to Save Public Housing at the War Memorial Plaza.
Wallace Craig, president of the Public Housing Resident Advisory Board (RAB) of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, leads a rally to Save Public Housing at the War Memorial Plaza. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Chambers, a retired social worker and one of the protest organizers, listed some of the problems Douglass residents face. There are the strict rules: tenants are banned from placing a grill or a kiddie pool in the courtyard. The lack of upkeep. And above all, there’s the threat of displacement. If that happens, she says “We’ll have more and more homeless families.”

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Public housing in Baltimore is managed by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, a nonprofit that reports to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Baltimore’s housing authority has sold thousands of deteriorating units to private developers to fix up as part of HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program (RAD) program.

Throughout the years, Baltimore has demolished various public housing developments, including the Murphy Homes, leveled in 1999, and Flag House Courts, a high rise that was razed in 2001. A partial demolition of Gilmor Homes began this year. Families in some cases relocated to outlying counties.

Ingrid Antonio, a spokeswoman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, said there are no plans to demolish Douglass Homes, which is located right by the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The residences were built in the 1940s.

Chambers is also delegate in the city’s resident advisory board, which represents tenants in the city’s housing projects. She and other protesters expressed concerns that the city plans to dismantle the group — which they say gives them a voice in planning decisions. Standing in front of City Hall, many protesters wore bright red shirts that said “RAB."

Antonio said it was “absolutely not true" that the city plans to get rid of RAB, which she called “an essential partner” in efforts to provide safe and affordable housing in Baltimore.

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