The Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) will begin an 18-month fair housing education and outreach initiative made possible by a $125,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) grant in 2014. BMC received the funds on behalf of several jurisdictions in the Baltimore region.

“This grant is an exciting first for the Baltimore region,” said Kathleen Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services, Inc., which administers Community Development Block Grant funds for Anne Arundel County.  “It will enable us to work with nonprofit partners to meet our fair housing obligations in a more robust way, and it begins to sustain the regional coordination of our work.”

The FHIP grant will help the jurisdictions – Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties, who work together as the Baltimore Regional Fair Housing Group – jumpstart the education and outreach for the Regional Fair Housing Action Plan. This new funding also will extend regional coordination at BMC for the group’s work, which is to help local governments meet their duty to affirmatively further the policies of the federal Fair Housing Act.

“This grant represents a new level of collaboration between nonprofit fair housing organizations and local government,” said Robert Strupp, executive director of Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. “By conducting trainings and other educational activities, BNI is able to work with local government agencies to protect citizens’ rights and help raise awareness of fair housing responsibilities among local officials.”

Overall goals of the projects that the funds will support are to educate potential fair housing victims, such as renters and homebuyers; other key stakeholders, such as real estate agents, landlords, property managers, attorneys and the local elected officials; and improve Internet information regarding rental availability for people with mobility impairments.

The new HUD fair housing funding will go specifically toward the following projects:

  • The development and distribution of a series of written fair housing materials for audiences ranging from tenants and prospective homebuyers, to real estate agents, homeowner associations and property managers.
  • Collaboration with the Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. (BNI) and the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, to conduct training for attorneys, real estate agents, landlords, property managers and other housing professionals.
  • Host meetings, workshops, roundtable discussions and tours of inclusionary zoning developments with nonprofit partners, such as the Innovative Housing Institute, Citizens Planning and Housing Association, and BNI to educate local elected officials and staff on the duty and responsibility to affirmatively further fair housing.
  • Improve online information on available rental units that are accessible to people with mobility impairments by working with the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development, the Maryland Multi-Housing Association and other organizations.
  • Training for staff at local housing counseling agencies, so that they may provide better education and resources for clients regarding fair housing rights.

The new funding also reinforces the positive work that results from regional partnerships.

“Our joint work through the Opportunity Collaborative – another HUD-funded effort – really set the stage for this project,” said Mel Freeman, executive director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. “HUD support in the Baltimore area has helped us cultivate a new set of public-private relationships and collaboration that just had not existed before.”

Staffing for the Regional Fair Housing Group is coordinated through the Opportunity Collaborative, a consortium of local governments, state agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations in the Baltimore region creating the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. The plan will bring together housing, transportation and workforce development. BMC staffs and coordinates the Opportunity Collaborative through a $3.5 million HUD Sustainable Communities grant.

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