Baltimore Project Among Selected Contract Awards For Fannie Mae $10 Million Innovation Challenge

Baltimore, MD – Fannie Mae has announced a Baltimore project among its contract awardees as part of its Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge (The Innovation Challenge) initiative.  The Innovation Challenge is a two-year, $10 million initiative, aimed at developing collaborative, cross-sector approaches that advance sustainable communities to help address the nation’s affordable housing issues.

Phase Three of this initiative focused on the intersection of affordable housing, education, and economic mobility, using housing as a lever to improve education outcomes and economic mobility for low-income households.  The Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) teamed up with Baltimore-based UPD Consulting to advance the idea of a school-based affordable housing program for families with young school-aged students who face housing instability during the school year.

The concept being researched and developed by UPD Consulting is one where DHCD works with affordable housing providers to facilitate the rehabilitation and maintenance of the properties, while Baltimore City Schools identifies the families of students in need of housing interventions.  The housing units will be located near schools so that families can stay in their current neighborhoods and not have to transfer their children to a new school.

“One of the most significant barriers to early reading achievement can be housing instability among low-income students,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.  “While we continue to work on the long-term housing needs of all our residents, through this model we want to break the cycle of school disruptions for children who may be facing homelessness.  We thank Fannie Mae for this opportunity.”

Baltimore’s proposal was selected from among hundreds of submissions from across the country after multiple rounds of review, including a semi-final review by Fannie Mae’s Sustainable Communities executives and an Expert Advisory Panel.  The project seeks to remove the disruption to the school setting that housing instability can cause by creating a school-centric affordable housing program, including wrap-around services. 

“Housing stability is inextricably tied to school attendance and educational outcomes,” stated DHCD Commissioner Michael Braverman.  “The Fannie Mae contract award provides us with resources to research and develop a workable and sustainable model to help address housing instability and its impact on academic success.”

The impact of housing instability on academic achievement is clear.  Children who experience homelessness are twice as likely to have learning disabilities, are three times more likely to have emotional behavioral disorders and are four times more likely to have developmental delays. “When families live in stable and affordable homes, they have greater opportunities to prosper in other aspects of life, including education and economic advancement,” said Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises. “We look forward to developing this school-based affordable housing program in partnership with DHCD, further connecting schools to the surrounding communities.”

“The benefits are straight-forward and will reduce housing instability and the associated costs, improve the lifetime prospects for low income children, as well as reduce costs associated with educating dislocated children,” said Douglass Austin, CEO of UPD Consulting. “In addition, we get improved housing stock in the neighborhoods around targeted school sites. This project can have a positive impact and make a difference on so many critical fronts.”

“I am thrilled that the City Department of Housing & Community Development has identified an opportunity to work with partners to try to figure out a new way to address a major challenge for too many of our city’s students and families,” said Laurie Latuda Kinkel, Vice President of Strategy for the Baltimore Community Foundation.  “BCF has been investing in schools and neighborhoods for decades, and we too often see these issues being addressed within separate systems. School leaders may know which families are experiencing housing instability, but I’m not aware of any housing program for them to refer to that would provide rapid rehousing with supportive services designed specifically to keep the student in the school community. That this concept also has the potential to bring vacant property back into productive community use is so exciting.”

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