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Even the proponents of Baltimore's inclusionary housing law agree it is flawed.

In effect for nearly a decade, the ordinance was supposed to require developers of city-subsidized projects to make 20 percent of their housing units affordable to lower-income families.

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But the law has produced just 32 affordable units, despite thousands of apartments and condominiums being built in the city.

The extent of the law's dysfunction was underscored this week when Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano testified before a City Council committee that the legislation would require cash-strapped Baltimore to pay $180 million to the developers of the planned Port Covington project to build affordable housing there. Lacking such funds, the city has approved a waiver so the law does not apply to the development.

The issue is a provision in the law that requires the city to pay developers for building the units — because the units, by definition, generate less rent.

The 32 units built under the law have cost taxpayers $2.2 million in a city that has, in recent years, closed recreation centers and fire companies and eliminated hundreds of police officer positions.

Despite receiving a waiver, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's Sagamore Development Co., which is developing the $5.5 billion waterfront project at Port Covington, has agreed to a goal of making 10 percent of the 7,500 proposed, mostly rental residences "affordable."

Advocates for poor communities say they want to see more affordable-housing units built on the site.

"Affordable housing units can't be built for free," Jon Laria, a lawyer for Sagamore, said this week. "It has to work economically."

City Councilman Bill Henry has proposed altering the law to eliminate the requirement that the city provide funds for the units — while cutting in half the number of required affordable-housing units. That proposal is expected to be debated in the coming weeks.

Sagamore is seeking City Council approval for $660 million in tax increment financing bonds to fund infrastructure for the project, which in addition to housing would include a new headquarters for Under Armour, restaurants, shops and a manufacturing plant, among other features. The development also is in line to receive $760 million in various tax credits.

Proponents of the Port Covington development say it will create thousands of jobs and eventually contribute $1.7 billion in taxes to the city over 40 years.

—Luke Broadwater

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