HOPE VI brought a critical mass of blight elimination and new community building to spark major economic development in Baltimore. However, a larger and more flexible program is urgently needed to address broader community issues beyond the boundaries of a public housing site and to encourage community and economic development including addressing distressed Federal Housing Administration (FHA) multifamily properties, which often co-exist near deteriorated public housing sites.
In Northeast Baltimore, one such transformation is well underway where a functionally obsolete public housing site (Claremont Homes) and a severely distressed FHA property (Freedom Village) were replaced by a mixed income community. Due to the lack of HOPE VI funds, a variety of funding sources were cobbled together including the now moribund FHA Upfront Grant, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, project-based Section 8 vouchers, HOME and State Development Funds, as well as state infrastructure funds.
Transformation stories like Baltimore’s have been replicated throughout the nation. Arguments still rage about the success of HOPE VI and especially the fate of residents. Whether more could or should have been done for the former residents of public housing will be long debated. What is indisputable is that no man, woman or child should have to live in the nightmare world of pre-HOPE VI public housing. What is also indisputable is that HOPE VI in Baltimore has been a major catalyst for broader transformation. A larger more flexible program would build on the success of HOPE VI.