Maryland needs more high quality, affordable housing | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Dec 28, 2020 at 1:30 PM
Home is more than an address. For some, it’s a safe place where we put down roots, build a family, plan for the future and create memories. It’s a place of pride, happiness and opportunity. For others, though, home takes on a different meaning. Unaffordable rent and poor design create points of daily discomfort. An unsafe neighborhood disconnected from good schools, jobs and healthy food make for daily stress and dissatisfaction. Unresponsive and unprepared management make feelings of respect hard to come by. Unfortunately, as seen in the article, “Tenant sues Lansdowne public housing complex, alleges company failed to fix problems creating ‘subhuman’ living conditions while county ignores complaints” (Dec. 18), this version of “home” is closer to reality for many residents. Yet, with the resources available today by credible and experienced developers of affordable housing, there are no good reasons for anyone, regardless of income level, to be forced into this notion of home.
A stigma against affordable housing persists all around us, as does the bad reputation and press generated by some in the industry who demonstrate negligence and disregard. You can often immediately identify an affordable housing community that falls into the negligent category: deteriorating exterior, bare-bones landscaping, old appliances and outdated common areas. Beyond what’s immediately visible, there can also be more insidious and harder to detect issues at play that include unethical practices, tenant harassment and mistreatment. Sometimes this is all driven by developers and landlords who seek higher profits at the expense of tenants. In other cases, there are structural imbalances between operating revenues and operating expenses, leaving management with tough and impossible trade-offs between what will get fixed and what won’t. Sadly, there are real people on the other end of these decisions.
That’s why at Enterprise Community Development — the largest African American-led affordable housing provider and the country’s fifth largest nonprofit — we are focused on bridging the housing gap by offering opportunities to residents beyond conventional services so they can achieve upward mobility. Our mission is to advance housing equality and life outcomes in Maryland by re-imagining affordable housing.
People are the heartbeat of communities. Without affordable housing, the foundation of our communities and our economic stability crumbles. To achieve housing equality, we must start addressing racial and neighborhood disparities. We cannot fully uplift communities unless we also take on some of the core issues that prevent long-lasting success able to transcend generations.
Brian McLaughlin, Baltimore
The writer is president and CEO of Enterprise Community Development.