For nearly 25 years, the federal government has encouraged the development of affordable rental housing by using a unique federal tax credit — one that fosters a strong partnership between public and private interests, while benefiting families and local communities. This housing tax credit, however, may be at risk of being a casualty in the bigger budget negotiation. But gutting this program would be counterproductive to economic recovery. Despite headlines filled with stories of vacant foreclosed houses, Baltimore and communities across the nation still face a shortage of reasonably priced rental housing. Maryland expects a net shortage of more than 130,000 rental units through 2015, according to the city's housing department.