The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in mid-March a settlement agreement with Maryland’s Baltimore County to expand affordable housing in high-opportunity areas.

Julian Castro, HUD secretary
J. Castro

The settlement is a result of a complaint filed with HUD by the NAACP Baltimore Branch, Baltimore Neighborhoods, and three individuals in November 2011. The complaint claimed that the county had only developed in areas concentrated by race and poverty, focused on rental housing for seniors rather than families, provided an inadequate amount of accessible units for people with disabilities, and failed to affirmatively further fair housing.

According to HUD, the settlement will be a catalyst to promoting housing mobility and will help the county and the surrounding areas develop affordable housing that addresses residential segregation.

Baltimore County will invest $3 million annually for 10 years to develop or preserve 1,000 affordable housing units that will be geographically dispersed in neighborhoods with access to opportunity for low- and very low-income residents, stated the agreement. The county also will provide at least 2,000 Housing Choice Vouchers to assist families in finding housing in higher-opportunity neighborhoods.

At least one-third of the units created under the settlement will be accessible and available for people with disabilities. In addition, the county will ensure that all its units comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act and will provide $300,000 in annual funding for 10 years to make other affordable housing units accessible.

The settlement also calls for the enactment of legislation prohibiting discrimination based on the source of income, according to HUD.

“Every person deserves a fair shot at opportunity, and that starts with a decent, safe, and affordable place to call home,” said Julián Castro, HUD secretary. “This agreement sets Baltimore County on a path to stronger, more inclusive communities where everyone can enjoy equal access to opportunity. Many thanks to all involved for coming together to expand housing choice in the county.”