BALTIMORE—Much of this city's housing stock is more than 50 years old compared with an average of 30 years or more for the rest of the country. In addition, 80 percent of Baltimore's rental units are owned by “mom-and-pop” landlords—those who own fewer than five units.

Nearly half of the renter households with children pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing, yet more than four in 10 live in physically inadequate housing, say city officials.

A large number of Baltimore's affordable housing units are being lost as units become substandard or, less commonly, as owners raise rents.

“Affordable housing has been one of my highest priorities,” says Mayor Sheila Dixon. “Two landmark pieces of legislation have been passed under my leadership—the creation of the Affordable Housing Program and the inclusionary housing ordinance.”

To help ease the housing crunch, the City Council in 2006 passed legislation creating a $59.8 million Affordable Housing Program, which dedicates funds for large-scale acquisition and demolition of blighted properties that can then be offered as sites for affordable housing. The program has provided financing to support the development of more than 1,300 units of affordable rental and for-sale housing.

Baltimore also has an inclusionary housing ordinance, which calls on certain developments to make a portion of their units affordable.

Dixon adds that she is working to create a land bank authority, a nonprofit quasi-governmental entity that would acquire, maintain, and sell abandoned properties that could be redeveloped for affordable and mixed-income housing.

Baltimore's affordable housing goals include creating 2,175 units of low-income rental housing between 2005 and 2010. Officials say they expect to surpass this goal. Another five-year goal is to assist 2,980 low-income renters become homeowners. The city is expected to fall short of this goal as it anticipates helping about 2,500 families.

The city approved more than $40 million in its fiscal 2009 capital budget to support affordable housing development.