By Sen. Cory McCray & Alicia Wilson
Partnership is good, and partnership that delivers results to communities that have been systematically underinvested in for decades is great. One example of a great partnership is the Live Near Your Work program led by the City of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University. Over the past 11 years, Live Near Your Work has offered grants to Hopkins employees so that they can purchase homes in neighborhoods near the university and hospital campuses spanning across the city from a number of East Baltimore neighborhoods, over to Mt. Vernon, and up to Homewood. To date, the program has provided upwards of $8.2 million to more than 1,100 employees on their path to home ownership.
We are excited to announce that Johns Hopkins is expanding the program into several new communities: Johnston Square, Belair Edison, South Clifton Park, Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello, Mayfield, and Darley Park. Each of these neighborhoods has a unique story and many contributions to offer our city. With the support of these grants from Hopkins, we will continue to build on those stories and expand each community’s legacy with new families that will strengthen the local economy, increase the population of our schools, and shape the future of the City of Baltimore. This impactful investment, under the leadership of President Ron Daniels, comes contemporaneously with the expansion of the Johns Hopkins Office for Economic Development. Taken together, these announcements are cause for residents to be encouraged about East Baltimore’s future.
As lifelong residents of East Baltimore, we are all too familiar with the harsh reality that the promise of home ownership and its power to build intergenerational wealth has not been offered equally. For black communities in Baltimore, the impact of race-based housing discrimination, known as redlining, has been both enduring and devastating. Even now, 75% of those redlined communities in Baltimore continue to struggle economically. This includes communities in East Baltimore that are still fighting to emerge from decades of segregation, discrimination, and disinvestment.
For neighborhoods that have been hit hard by generations of flight and de-valuation, increased home ownership can be the spark that helps reverse these trends. When the opportunity to become a homeowner is made more accessible to working class neighborhoods like Belair Edison, Darley Park, and Johnston Square, we are also sending a message that our government and anchor institutions see the value that all neighborhoods in our city have to offer. These neighborhoods are the heartbeat of the City.
Importantly, the program is structured to benefit current Hopkins employees who are residents of East Baltimore, more than 1,200 of whom already live in the newly expanded Live Near Your Work boundaries. And because the grants are tied to the period of time that the recipient lives in the house, Live Near Your Work incentivizes long-term home ownership and investment in the existing community.
Additionally, as more houses are purchased at competitive market rates, the value of surrounding houses also goes up, increasing the desirability of the neighborhood and helping long-term residents realize a positive return on their investment. Community members who own homes also own a piece of the community – and have additional responsibilities and motivation to invest in it by supporting nearby schools, parks, and small businesses.
This expansion of Live Near Your Work has been carefully thought out by passionate community leaders including Regina Hammond from Johnston Square, Rita Crews from Belair Edison, Mark Washington from Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello, and Pauline Charles from Darley Park. Each of them are committed to ensuring that everyone knows their neighborhoods are well worth the investment.
The Live Near Your Work grants are already making a real difference in the lives of Baltimoreans. Clarissa and Tony Cozart are both Hopkins employees who for years rented a home in the Oliver neighborhood. In June, they used a Live Near Your Work grant to purchase their first house just four blocks away in the same neighborhood. Today, they’re looking forward to deepening their roots to their neighborhood and raising their three children in a safe and vibrant community. They, like thousands of others, are in it for the long-term, and Baltimore will be better because of their commitment to our city.
The expansion of Live Near Your Work and the partnership with Johns Hopkins University is cause for excitement in East Baltimore. Most importantly, we are eager to see the growth that each of these three great communities will experience in the years to come. We hope that you can join us on Saturday, September 7th from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM in the Johnston Square Park to celebrate this partnership.
Cory McCray is a member of the Maryland State Senate, representing the 45th District, which encompasses Northeast and East Baltimore City.
Alicia Wilson is the Vice President for Economic Development for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Afro-American Newspapers.