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"Renter Week of Action" calls attention to housing crisis

The advent of a “Renter Week of Action” being held in 45 cities nationally this week, organized by Homes for All, a national non-profit group, had me searching out a Sun article of a few months back which proclaimed “Flood of new apartments in Baltimore raises question: Are there too many?” (June 2). Nowhere in the long article was there a mention of rental prices. Being mindful that some 55 percent of Baltimore’s renter households – if they are fortunate enough to actually find decent and affordable units – still pay 30 percent to 50 percent of their income on housing costs. I couldn’t help wondering how affordable to these folks the 5,600 residential units, mostly apartment, with 1,800 in the pipeline might be. A quick check showed me that the new units are predominantly high end or luxury apartments.

Renters now represent the majority of the nation’s 100 largest cities, including Baltimore whose renter population is over 300,000, yet renters increasingly face a daunting mix of rising rents and stagnant wages, adding up to an unprecedented housing affordability crisis. Additionally there is the frightening fact that more than 11.4 million extremely low income renter household face a shortage of 7.4 million affordable and available rental homes.

The organizers of the ‘Renter Week of Action’ are calling on policy makers, lenders, developers, landlords to go beyond simply acknowledging that we have a grave housing crisis and take action to ensure that all people can live in dignified and affordable homes. These demands echo in a very timely way the Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s current 20/20 Campaign. Within the framework of a call for fair and equitable development in Baltimore, the 20/20 Campaign’s goal is $20 million a year for permanently affordable housing and $20 million a year to deconstruct vacants, create and promote jobs with livable wages, and encourage green spaces and urban farming within the city. Concerned Baltimoreans should acquaint themselves with the Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s 20/20 Campaign and hopefully participate and lend their signatures to this important effort.

Jane Harrison

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