Baltimore-area neighborhoods are locked in a heated battle over a new push to bring residents from poor parts of the city into the more affluent suburbs.
The controversy surrounds government-subsidized Section 8 housing.
With crime in the inner city soaring and many of Baltimore’s neighborhoods plagued by gang violence, there was a push to integrate those communities into neighborhoods in the surrounding county. The NAACP and others sued Baltimore County over alleged housing segregation – and the county has now settled, agreeing to spend $30 million over the next 10 years to build 1,000 homes in affluent neighborhoods.
On top of that, the Baltimore County executive is planning to put forward legislation outlawing the practice of landlords denying – or as some see it, discriminating against – Section 8 tenants.
“I think it's important that we make sure that opportunities are available to everyone within the region," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
It’s unclear whether such a proposal would even pass.
But the plans have faced stiff resistance from some residents and lawmakers.
“I think it's nonsense,” said Pat McDonough, a Republican Maryland delegate. “The overall policy which is coming out of the White House -- it is coming out of President Obama's philosophy of social engineering on steroids -- we're going to make everybody better if we move everyone to Kingsville. … It’s a failure and is destined to fail.”
The argument from the NAACP and its allies, though, is that typical Section 8 subsidized housing programs bunch poor people together, and that this only fuels more crime and other problems.
Under the new plan, residents from low-income neighborhoods would be placed all around Baltimore County, essentially integrating the poor among wealthier families.
“Studies indicate doing cluster in one area is not successful,” said Tony Fugett, president of the Baltimore County NAACP. “The hope is that the units would be dispersed throughout the county.”