The Consider the Person Campaign is focused on changing the hearts and minds of landlords and communities about participants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8), so that participants may live in any neighborhood they choose. For more information, including video testimonials, visit the campaign’s web site: www.considertheperson.org.
The Community Development Network of Maryland, Inc. (formerly known as the Maryland Asset Building and Community Development Network, Inc.) is a network of community development organizations statewide. These organizations engage in several kinds of community development, from revitalizing communities, to providing affordable housing, to sustaining and creating vibrant main streets corridors, and ensuring opportunities for all people in Maryland. CDN’s members are community based nonprofits, community development corporations, branches of local government, related for-profit businesses, and committed individuals.
The Consider the Person Campaign directly addresses the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ second livability principle, “Promote equitable, affordable housing.” Outside of the mortgage interest tax deduction, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest single source of federal assistance to make housing affordable. Program rules allow a person with a voucher to use it anywhere in the country, meaning no voucher holder should be “stuck” in an area they don’t want to live.
In reality, though, many landlords refuse to rent to prospective tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers, either through their own decision or in response to pressure from community members. The result can be voucher holders feeling trapped in areas of crime, poor schools, lack of food options, and poor health outcomes.
We know that housing mobility can work. The Special Mobility Housing “Choice Voucher Program, administered by Metropolitan Baltimore Quadel, a unique partnership with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, works with a select group of tenants to help them move to generally higher-income “areas of opportunity.” It has been an overwhelming success. A few of the results include:
- Eighty-three percent of settled participants (those who have been in their homes for at least 14 months) say their neighborhood is better or much better than their old neighborhood.
- Upwards of 70 percent of settled participants say schools, safety and less crime and drugs, friendly neighbors and people, and a mix of different races and cultures are the most positive features of their new neighborhood.
- 89 percent of settled parents say their children appear to be learning better or much better in their new schools.
Unfortunately, this is a limited program, funded as the result of a lawsuit, and it only works with a relatively small number of voucher-holding families. Most do not have access to the program — and do not see the resulting improvement in their neighborhood, a lower crime rate, better school achievement for their children, or health improvements.
As a result, this demonstration project seeks to change perceptions among landlords and community members that deny families with housing vouchers the opportunity to live in many communities. The campaign has hired Sagesse, Inc. to develop a public relations campaign. To see videos and blog posts to date, visit www.considertheperson.org.
Communities and Population Served
This project serves the entire Baltimore metropolitan area, with a focus on the region’s citizens who use Housing Choice Vouchers to augment their ability to pay rent. According to HUD, that is more than 23,000 households.
Another community focus of this project is residents of neighborhoods that currently have an over-concentration of poverty. Improving mobility for Housing Choice Voucher holders will create new rental opportunities for others, and a potentially higher rental vacancy rate due to this mobility would put pressure on landlords to increase the quality of their properties to be more competitive in the marketplace. Such a dynamic would create stronger existing neighborhoods for all.
The Consider the Person Campaign is focused on expanding opportunities throughout the Baltimore region.
The Consider the Person Campaign is conducted by the Community Development Network of Maryland. The campaign's Advisory Committee includes the following people:
- Jim Evans, Metropolitan Baltimore Quadel
- Antonia Fasanelli, Homeless Persons Representation Project
- Elizabeth Glenn, Baltimore County Department of Planning
- Kathleen Koch, Arundel Community Development Services
- Hon. Stephen Lafferty, Maryland House of Delegates
- Clifton Martin, Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County
- Marsha Parham, Baltimore County Office of Housing
- Dan Pontious, Baltimore Metropolitan Council
- Odette Ramos, Community Development Network of Maryland
- Barbara Samuels, ACLU of Maryland
- Tiffany Smith, Howard County Housing
- Robert Strupp, Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.
- Amy Wilkinson, Housing Authority of Baltimore City