Building Resilient and Sustainable Communities: HOW We Do It in Johnston Square
On a sunny fall day in front of several newly renovated rowhomes, state and city officials gathered with community partners to celebrate a milestone in the ongoing revitalization of Baltimore’s Johnston Square neighborhood through affordable homeownership. Standing as a symbol of change at Johnston Square’s gateway from downtown, the new homes on Biddle Street are the first four rehabilitated and offered for sale with support from Maryland’s Homeownership Works (HOW) program that launched as a pilot in 2021.
“Governor Moore often speaks about his goal to ‘Make This Maryland’s Decade’ and ensure that this state reaches its full potential. But for Maryland to reach its full potential, Baltimore must reach its full potential,” said Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Assistant Secretary Greg Hare as part of his remarks during the celebration. “These four restored homes on Biddle Street – the first of 25 under our Homeownership Works Program – represent the state’s investment towards fulfilling that potential for this city and its residents.”
HOW it Works
HOW finances the rehabilitation of aging properties or new home construction on formerly vacant lots. It also provides existing homeowners with critical home repairs and façade improvements. HOW seeks to keep local families in the community and empower them to build legacy wealth while attracting new residents to further strengthen the neighborhood.
HOW is providing more than $4 million to renovate 25 blighted units in the East Baltimore community to create sustainable, affordable homeownership opportunities as part of the Johnston Square Vision Plan, jointly created by community stakeholders with development partner, ReBUILD Metro. HOW is also funding home rehabilitation and construction as part of the revitalization of the historic Pine Street community in Cambridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
HOW it Helps
Most importantly, HOW targets resources to communities that have experienced deterioration and disinvestment as a result of misguided and discriminatory decisions. Because of the stalled economic growth created by these decisions, properties are often valued lower in these communities than comparable properties in other areas. This lower assessment creates an “Appraisal Gap” that negatively impacts both the cost to build or renovate housing and the return on that investment in these communities.
By closing the gaps in financing for the construction and rehabilitation of properties in communities like Johnston Square and Pine Street, HOW is helping to close the “Appraisal Gap” by incentivizing additional public, private, and nonprofit investment to spur redevelopment. By closing the “Appraisal Gap” and elevating depressed property values for historically disadvantaged households, HOW helps close the gap in household wealth across racial categories. By closing the gap in household wealth, HOW helps disadvantaged and disinvested communities achieve economic stability and growth. HOW helps these communities and their residents close the gap between vision and potential by creating a healthier, more equitable housing market that protects legacy residents and encourages new homeownership.
As aptly put by Assistant Secretary Hare:
“The people of Johnston Square deserve a chance to make their community – the place where they work, the place where they live – the best it can be. They deserve to live in a place where they can walk down the block and instead of vacants, they see lovable places full of people who have pride in the neighborhood they live in. The homes that will be restored under DHCD’s HOW program gets us closer to that vision of a thriving Johnston Square.”
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