Article11 Map of Baltimore TIF Projects

Map of Baltimore TIF Projects. (Image Courtesy Baltimore Development Corporation)

More than 100 protesters and concerned citizens swarmed City Hall to express their concerns about the city’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Program during a Baltimore City Council hearing on May 19.

The evening hearing was hosted by Councilman Carl Stokes (D-District 12), chair of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee. He was joined by City Council Chairman Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Council members Bill Henry, Warren Branch, Ed Resinger and Mary Pat Clark for what Stokes called an informational hearing to review TIF legislation and how it is being used in Baltimore.

A TIF is created when a government entity borrows money to finance private development that is viewed as beneficial to the community. The collateral for the borrowed money is the projected tax receipts of the property that is being developed.

Stokes called the hearing in advance of the Council’s review of the controversial Port Covington redevelopment proposal, recently approved by the City’s Baltimore Development Corp. If approved by the City Council, TIF funding will be used to help pay for roads, parks, sewers and other infrastructure for the mixed use development in South Baltimore. The Port Covington proposal is one part of a $6.5 billion development plan by Sagamore Development, a real estate company owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.

Baltimore’s Deputy Finance Director Steve Kraus and Baltimore Development Corp. President and CEO William Cole IV presented an overview of Baltimore’s 14 current TIF development districts ranging from Mondawmin Mall in Council District 7 to Harbor Point in District 1.  

Kraus argued TIF projects attract business and bring in tax revenue.

But TIF opponents argued that TIF’s promote discrimination and continue a legacy of redlining in Black and disadvantaged communities based on how they have been implemented so far in Baltimore.

“The city and Kevin Plank don’t care about low-income people and senior citizens. We are disposable people who are considered worthless.  I am here because we need affordable living rent housing and a living wage, right now,” argued Lee Patterson from the People’s Power Assembly, a community activist organization.

Critics of Baltimore’s TIF program and City Council members agree that the number of affordable housing units built so far by TIF developers has not met expectations.

“I think that’s 34 units of affordable housing in seven years?” said Councilman Bill Henry, asking for clarification on the moderate-income housing developed through the city’s current TIF development districts.

“What’s really missing from the TIF formula is a robust plan not just for affordable housing but fair housing,” said Lawrence Brown, assistant professor in the School of Community Health and Policy at Morgan State University, who testified before the City Council committee on behalf of the Baltimore Redevelopment Action Coalition for Empowerment (BRACE).  “Port Covington would intensify segregation. With all the luxury homes that would be built and the high income status that you have to have to buy these homes, the project would invariable become a disproportional White neighborhood that would intensify segregation.”

Brown added, “Right now, most of our public housing residents are living in disinvested, redlined Black communities. They are living in rat-infested, redlined homes. We could be using bonds to fix our infrastructure or get rid of lead; we could be using our bonds to ensure fair and affordable housing.  We just had an uprising last year. Many of these issues have been lingering for decades.”

Paul Graziano, commissioner of the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development, has exempted TIF projects from the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, which requires 20 percent of new housing developments be set aside for affordable housing.

Rev. Andrew Connors, senior pastor of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church and member of the BUILD Coalition (Baltimore United In Leadership Development) called for the city to develop a profit-sharing formula for revenue developed from TIF projects.

“I understand the heart of this question,” responded Jeff Wilke, assistant director for bond financing at the Maryland Economic Development Corp., the state’s bond financing agency.  He added, “The best driver to make sure TIF’s are used appropriately is local policy, something that can be viewed by the general public so that all are on the same page.”

Stokes said the date for consideration of the Port Covington TIF would be announced at the next City Council meeting, which is scheduled for June 1.