Baltimore-based community land trust among leaders in affordable housing movement

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Long-standing housing discrimination and inequalities have put countless Baltimore City residents at major disadvantages. Hence, the need for the North East Housing Initiative (NEHI), an organization that advocates for the rights of homeowners while ensuring that permanent affordable housing is also available.

With unfair housing practices, including gentrification permeating so many of America’s major inner cities, the affordable housing movement has played a crucial role in making homeownership possible for underserved communities.

Garrick Good, executive director of NEHI, works tirelessly with his colleagues and partners to serve communities throughout the quadrant of Northeast Baltimore.

Since its inception in 2014, NEHI, a community land trust, is dedicated to providing permanent affordable housing for low-income individuals or families at 80 percent AMI (Area Median Income) and below.

The current focus of NEHI is on housing in the four-by-four community off Belair Road. A ‘four-by-four community’ is a section of homes spanning four blocks horizontally and four blocks vertically, which in NEHI’s case makes up about 600 homes— more than 50 of which are abandoned.

“We chose the four-by-four community because in Northeast Baltimore it seems to be the forgotten community,” Good said.

NEHI works through a partnership with the City of Baltimore to acquire as many of those properties through receivership as possible.

In January, NEHI announced a five-year plan to obtain 200 homes to be used for permanent affordable housing. As it currently stands, two homes are on the market, and five are under construction for lease or sale sometime this summer, according to Good.

Even in the midst of a public health crisis in Baltimore City, NEHI’s services did not stop.

“It has affected our organization like most others in the community. We are still focused on our housing strategies, but we are also focused more now on our stewardship component,” said Good.

NEHI has expanded its stewardship program to help targeted families be better prepared for housing both pre and post sale.

“We’ve identified a lot of prospective homeowners, and so we’ve worked with them in getting food as well as snacks for students that are a part of the families, [and] we’ve worked with giving referrals to families on an as-needed basis to ensure that they get the assistance they need,” Good said. “We had a number of families that had children that didn’t have sufficient Internet for their homes, so we worked with them to get Internet in their homes so the students can continue to learn.”

In addition, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund made it possible for the NEHI to secure funding that allows the organization to provide affordable housing to families and individuals who qualify.

“The average family is able to get a three or four bedroom home for less than $600 a month. Some of the clients that we’ve been working with in looking for housing are paying twice that and have substandard housing,” Good remarked. “And so what we’re doing is a game changer, that will allow families to have a new home with new appliances and new systems, and be able to focus on other things that will continue to make them productive citizens in the community and give them disposable income to do other things.”

NEHI’s partners include PNC Bank; Fulton Bank; and Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc., which helps NEHI with recruiting families, housing counseling and selling the homes.

Furthermore, the NEHI offers available subsidies that lead to price reductions that ensures housing costs are no more than 30 percent of a family’s budget, Good highlighted.

“That number and the subsidies change from family to family, depending on what the household looks like,” Good said. “But what we’re doing is we’re working to really understand families’ needs, and then work with them post-purchase of their homes to look at other things that they can do to start being really active in the community and change the dynamic in communities like the four-by-four.”

The Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development and commissioner Michael Braverman work closely with NEHI to assess strategies that best meet the needs of Baltimoreans.

“The HCD (Department of Housing & Community Development) has a commitment to providing housing stock. They see where community land trusts can be one of the tenants in achieving that goal,” Good noted. “They work with us in a number of ways in ensuring that we’re prepared and that we break down barriers that arise in preventing families to become homeowners.”

If you or someone you know is interested in affordable housing and would like to discuss the possibility of obtaining a community land trust home, contact the NEHI directly at 410-488-4857 or visit the NEHI website at https://www.nehihomes.org/.