The Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership (BRHP) provides counseling and rental assistance to participants in the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program. BRHP was created as a result of the settlement of the landmark civil rights case Thompson, et al. vs. HUD, et al., which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on behalf of African-American families residing in public housing in Baltimore City. The lawsuit sought to remedy decades of discriminatory policies that had concentrated Baltimore’s public housing in high poverty, racially isolated neighborhoods in the inner city, where residents had little or no access to economic or educational opportunities. The goal of the Thompson case was to give African-American families that wanted to move to areas of opportunity throughout the Baltimore region a chance to do so. The importance of these new opportunities has become increasingly clear, as a growing body of research shows that children who move to low-poverty neighborhoods when they are young realize significant benefits later in life, including lower teen birth rates, higher college attendance and marriage rates, and large gains in lifetime earnings compared to children who remain in high-poverty neighborhoods.
Because communities of opportunity – especially those outside of Baltimore City – are often unfamiliar to BRHP’s clients, staff members counsel clients about the benefits of moving to these communities, work with families to repair any credit problems, recruit landlords in suburban neighborhoods who are willing to rent to participants in the program, and help clients identify apartments that meet their needs. The program also provides post-placement counseling and support for two years following the move, services that assist families in making a smooth transition to their new community, and help resolve any problems that may arise between a family and the new landlord. In 2014, BRHP instituted a preference for families with young children to ensure that the program serves those who will benefit the most.
While BRHP provides support and assistance to help families make these moves, many families are unable to save the funds needed to pay security deposits for their new apartments. With an average income of just $17,749, and median savings of $245, it is difficult for the Thompson families to pay the average $1,260 security deposit charged by participating landlords, in addition to moving expenses and utility deposits. To address this challenge, the Abell Foundation has awarded more than $2 million in funding since 2003 to help defray the cost of security deposits for families participating in the Thompson housing mobility program. This assistance has enabled more than 1,900 families to pay security deposits for homes and apartments in opportunity areas throughout the Baltimore region. In addition to helping these families move to better neighborhoods, the program is leveraging $3.7 million per month in rent payments paid by HUD.