COMMENTARY: Baltimore’s Dollar House Program Equals Gentrification?

By Ralph E. Johnson, Jr.

(BALTIMORE – October 27, 2017) – The “Buy A House For $1 Program” hearing at City Hall this week confirmed that gentrification is alive and kicking in Baltimore City. Gentrification is a term that was coined by sociologist Ruth Glass in the early 1960’s which literally means when the upper class of society moves into an environment and the poor and working class are displaced to undesirable locations. The organization, H.O.M.E.S. (Homeownership, Opportunity, Mentorship for Economic Success), discovered that the city received 700 million dollars from the state to tear down thousands of abandoned houses and have wealthy developers build developments that will be essentially unaffordable to residents who once lived in those areas.

Such usage of federal, state and local government funds is a byproduct of the love affair between wealthy developers and city officials that have been fucking Baltimoreans for decades. It’s obvious that the powers that be have no interest in developing disadvantaged residents or their abandoned neighborhoods. Their strategy is to let communities go to ruins to justify displacing residents and building high-end developments for so called more quality upper class people. Perhaps if the residents of Baltimore voted in more quality non-deceitful politicians, we would have a better quality of life.

H.O.M.E.S. brought to the attention of Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clark that the successful $1 House Program of the 1980’s would be perfect for the revitalization of Baltimore if it was implemented today. H.O.M.E.S. insisted that instead of neighborhoods being demolished and life long residents displaced, the residents could purchase houses for one dollar, get city loans at 1% interest to refurbish the houses and hire local developers and city residents to do the work.

As a result, abandoned houses would disappear, jobs would be created, tax revenue would be generated, crime would be reduced and neighborhoods would thrive. The concept of the $1 House Program is to include the residents in the development process of Baltimore instead of politically and economically exiling them to concentrated poverty in the suburbs.

Immediately, Councilwoman Clark supported the program and brought it before Baltimore City Council members for a referendum (vote by elected officials). After a lengthy hearing in which residents adamantly stressed how vital the $1 House Program would be to Baltimore, City Council members in attendance (Clarke, Sneed, Cohen, Dorsey, Henry, Burnett, Bullock, Reisinger) voted unanimously for the program to go before the entire 15 member council board to be ratified (approved).

If City Council members vote in favor of the program, then it has to be approved by Madame Mayor Catherine Pugh. She has the power to determine if she wants to create a budget for a program that will include Baltimoreans in the development process of Baltimore. This means she will have to step on the toes of powerful, wealthy developers who have been using Baltimore as an ATM machine for decades. If you have followed the brief mayoral career of Madame Mayor Pugh, you will find that her campaign was financed by wealthy developers and big business investors. You will discover she disapproved the $15 minimum wage increase for struggling workers; she shut down Shake and Bake Family Fun Center leaving residents jobless and a community void of productive activities and she reduced the AFRAM (African American Festival) from two days to one…

Craftily, Madame Mayor Pugh has been using community fun days, illusionary job employment schemes and neighborhood holiday festivities as smokescreens to camouflage the traditional robbing of disadvantaged residents at the behest of the wealthy! If history is an indicator of how Madame Mayor Pugh will address the $1.00 House Program, the citizens of Baltimore are *ucked! Until then, the program has a pulse, but it’s definitely on life support. City Council members will vote on the program at City Hall on Monday October 30th at 5pm.
Written by Ralph E. Johnson, Jr. Ralph’s books can be purchased at GB!