Baltimore Poppleton residents attorneys' file Fair Housing Act complaint against city with HUD
Baltimore City-based advocacy nonprofit Economic Action Maryland, formerly known as the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing against Baltimore City on behalf of a former Poppleton resident, Angela Banks.
"I'm not even mad anymore, I'm just tired," said Banks during the lawsuit announcement on Monday.
The administrative complaint filed against the city, its Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore City Council alleges that the city violated the federal Fair Housing Act.
That federal law prohibits individuals from being discriminated against when renting or buying a home, seeking a mortgage, housing assistance and other such activities, according to HUD. Individuals are protected against discrimination of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation, familial status and disabilities.
The complaint specifically suggests that Baltimore City's redevelopment policies since 1975 have violated the federal law because it displaced Black residents of the Poppleton neighborhood and forced them to relocate to more 'deeply segregated' communities across Baltimore City and beyond.
The use of eminent domain, which enables municipalities to purchase homes at fair market value for redevelopment or infrastructure projects in the public right of way, has been used against Black families, attorneys for the residents argued in the complaint.
In 2006, Baltimore City under then-Mayor Martin O'Malley committed to sell more than 500 properties in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Poppleton to New York-based real estate developer La Cité to develop the neighborhood, according to the complaint. More than 350 properties were conveyed and 167 properties were seized by Baltimore City under eminent domain, attorneys argued. At the time, 134 of those properties seized by eminent domain were occupied by Black families, the complaint alleges.
Organizers laid out recommendations for Baltimore City in the complaint which included monetary compensation for all displaced renters and homeowners who have left the neighborhood since 2005, the ability for displaced residents to return, a relocation fund for those who want to return, a change in Baltimore City's eminent domain policies among other recommendations.
A representative for Baltimore City responded to WYPR with the following statement: "The City of Baltimore is unwavering in its commitment to promoting fairness and equality in housing for all residents. Mayor [Brandon] Scott is acutely aware of the critical importance of fair housing and has taken significant steps to address the housing inequities of the past through substantial investments in formerly redlined communities. Our relocation assistance follows federal guidelines established by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act. We will thoroughly review the concerns advanced today that date back to 1975, and we look forward to the opportunity to engage with HUD on this matter."
The developer told The Baltimore Beat that the project failed to happen because of The Great Recession and housing market collapse in 2007. But the original idea was to turn Poppleton into "Black Wall Street", Dan Bythewood told The Baltimore Beat.
By 2012, Baltimore City tried to sever ties with the development company citing its default on previous agreements but the developer filed a civil lawsuit against the city and a federal judge ruled in favor of the developer in 2013.
Then under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the developer applied for Tax Increment Financing worth $58.6 million for various improvements connected to the redevelopment, according to The Baltimore Beat.
In 2019, embattled real estate developer La Cité changed its plans and increased the percentage of rental housing proposed at market rate prices.
"There is no evidence to suggest that La Cité will be developing any units affordable to Black legacy Poppleton residents," according to the complaint. "These delays paired with the City’s premature seizures have caused the displacement of Poppleton residents who then struggled to find affordable housing."
In July 2022, Sonia Eaddy, a Poppleton resident, won a fight to transfer the ownership of nearly a dozen rowhomes to a community developer, according to The Baltimore Banner.
"Where is our Just Compensation?" asked Eaddy who witnessed neighbors losing their homes.
To read the full complaint filed with HUD, please see below PDF.