More families are still leaving Baltimore than moving in, and while many of the reasons are well known, a new analysis of where they land and why has made city officials and advocates believe their efforts are changing attitudes — and some decisions.
It's no longer a given that people who move to the city for college or their first job will leave once it's time to buy a house, a bigger home or send their kids to school, according to the city officials who plan to release the report Thursday during a news conference led by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
"We now know people are looking for ways to stay," said Seema Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business, which helped conduct the review for the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance.
"It's not like they are itching to get out but have to do what's best for family and feel forced to leave," she said. "And that's something we can capitalize on."
She called it a "push-pull," with many people not going far when they felt pushed out: "To Towson, just over the city line."
In surveys, residents say they were pulled to the city by good neighbors, historic houses, the ability to walk to shops, restaurants and other amenities.
She said some junctures when people make decisions to stay or go are known, such as when they buy a house. But other points, such as when they retire, were less obvious. Officials can focus on the needs of different groups who want to stay but think there is more incentive to leave.
Rawlings-Blake announced an initiative in 2010 to attract 10,000 more families to the city by 2020. In support of that effort, her administration has sought to address property taxes, schools and crime.
Officials cite progress, including property tax cuts totaling 14 cents of the pledged 20-cent reduction by 2020, though there were no reductions this year. There are new investments in city schools, though Gov. Larry Hogan recently declined to provide more. Some charter schools have gotten so popular that they have waiting lists.
And even after the rioting and protests related to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, people still came out to a city housing fair hosting by the advocacy group Live Baltimore. More than half the attendees signed up just after the initial unrest, said Steven Gondol, the group's executive director.
The unrest even "prompted a lot of people to roll up their sleeves and get involved," he said.
Still, the city's population slipped by a tenth of a percent in the latest Census estimate. And the number of school-age children has been in free fall, dropping 23 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Officials acknowledged that migration trends in place since the 1950s would not be easy to reverse, but they said in some cases they may be able to provide influential information to people facing a life decisions, such as their neighborhood school's test scores or incentives to buy houses in the city.
"This report demonstrates that the foundation we have laid is the right foundation for continuing to grow our city," said Rawlings-Blake in a statement. "Many of the issues raised align with policies we have put in place to make life better for city residents, including property tax reductions, millions of dollars for new school construction and new rec centers as well as thousands of demolitions for vacant structures. This is a blueprint for continued success, and validation that the choices we have made to grow this city were the right priorities for what residents care most about."