COVID-19 and Homeownership in Baltimore

Blog post by Cheryl Knott
January 17, 2024

Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance   (Baltimore)

This paper represents the collaborative efforts of several organizations – the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance - Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI), the Community Development Network of Maryland (CDN), the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), and the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) Community Leadership Program – to explore the impact of COVID-19 on homeownership in Baltimore City, especially in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. We look at the impact of COVID-19 itself as well as policy responses to the pandemic, starting the year before the pandemic hit (2019) through 2021-2023 (depending on the data source). This is a multi-layered, multi-faceted topic that we begin to explore in the pages that follow. It is important to understand key dynamics and questions as Baltimore collectively makes crucial housing policy decisions in the months and years ahead.

In writing the paper, we examined several data sets that can be used to measure changes in Baltimore’s homeownership rates over time. The data indicates that
homeownership rates in Baltimore may be stagnant or falling in most of the City’s neighborhoods while rising in a limited number of predominantly white and Hispanic neighborhoods. To put the local and federal data into context, we conducted an extensive literature review of studies, reports and news stories from other mixed-market cities, as well as state and national sources. We also interviewed Baltimore homeownership experts, who gave generously of their time, knowledge and experience working with homebuyers and homeowners.

Drawing on this combination of sources and perspectives, we root our findings in the historic and ongoing challenges of Black homeownership in Baltimore and beyond, while recognizing that different dynamics are at work in the growing Hispanic community. And we highlight critical differences in the housing market between productive and predatory capital. We argue that an important impact of COVID-19 on homeownership in Baltimore was an explosion of far-reaching policy recommendations from a range of voices in the city’s housing policy debates. Finally, in addition to offering examples of local and state policy recommendations that respond to Baltimore’s homeownership challenges, we emphasize the need for collaborative city- wide leadership: to bring different parties to the table, hammer out a division of responsibilities, identify funding, and stick with the work for at least a decade.