The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Baltimore city housing:
Even the feds won't buy it

May 7, 2001

The Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) has taken 20 MILLION dollars from Baltimore City because the Housing Authority cannot come up with an acceptable, legal plan for low income housing.

In April, the THIRD plan the city submitted for developing senior housing was rejected. The site had been cleared last July when a deteriorating high-rise public housing project was blown up to make way for 450 units of low-income housing.

Baltimore has tossed away millions MORE dollars in federal housing funds as well. Just this March, HUD issued a scathing report on Baltimore's Section 8 housing program, which subsidizes rents for poor families. Over a two-year period, from 1998 to 2000, the city was awarded 167 million dollars to subsidize low-income housing. It used only 42 million dollars. Yet the waiting list has 16,000 people on it!

HUD found the Housing Authority kept such poor records that it didn't even know how many rental units it was subsidizing. It didn't know the size of their own payroll. It didn't know when it had paid a landlord twice for the same bill. It couldn't keep track of the people on their waiting lists. And HUD inspections of 37 units showed that 35 of them had unsanitary, unsafe or unsound conditions!

The Housing Authority's excuse was that its computer wasn't Y2K compliant so it had to keep records by hand. Any small business in the country could go to a computer store and buy a system that would keep track of this data for only a few thousand dollars. Yet this agency with MILLIONS of dollars could not bother to buy the machines it needed? Cynical! That's the only word for a Housing Authority which dares say such nonsense while thousands of poor families are in desperate need of housing.

A third HUD report this past January showed another Housing Authority problem. Five years after a lawsuit was brought to house low-income families in affordable homes throughout the city or surrounding county, only 51 families out of 1,342 in the lawsuit had been moved. So in five years, the Baltimore's Housing Authority could manage to serve only four% of those it agreed to assist in the lawsuit of 1996!

The Housing Authority could not make it more clear: the poor can sleep on the street, for all it or the rest of Baltimore's political structure cares.