By Denise Koch

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Have you driven around the city lately? There is still a lot going on.

Yes, there are still “two Baltimores,” but new, affordable housing is going up in long-neglected neighborhoods.

WJZ’s Denise Koch spent one sweltering summer day driving around with the mayor to find out where, why, and just how it’s being paid for.

“What we want to do is add population to Baltimore,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said. “And that requires us to transform neighborhoods and communities that have been under-invested for decades.”

Park Heights is certainly one of those neighborhoods, but on that particular day, three out of four corners were under investigation. The mayor has spent $13 million there in the past year, with much of the money coming from gambling at the nearby Pimlico Racetrack

“I get a smile on my face every time I come here,” said Pugh.

The mayor calls this a “new era of neighborhood investment” and she’s focusing on areas where she can see the most transformation. The “other Baltimore” if you will.

Areas like Greenmount West/Barclay, where they’ve gone from 500 vacant buildings to 150, where the new design school anchors 718 new, affordable housing units, including City Arts I and II.

New affordable housing units are going up all around the city. Have you noticed “Metro Heights” at Mondawmin? 70 units of market-rate and affordable housing will be available in the next couple of weeks.

What does “affordable” mean? If you earn 80-percent of the city’s median income – $70,000 or less for a family of 4 – you qualify for some sort of affordable housing.

In Johnson Square, $10 million is being invested in tearing down homes that can’t be saved and rehabilitating those that can.

There are 16,000 vacant homes in the city. Whenever possible, the mayor says she wants to keep people in the communities they call home.

“This is not just social justice, this is economic development,” said Pugh.

The mayor says she has the money to make the change. Some from the newly funded Affordable Housing Trust Fund, some from the governor’s $30 million core project, and through low-income tax credits that have developers competing for the work.

“We’re seeing some really beautiful multi-family units being put up around the city by our affordable housing development partners,” said Michael Braverman, with the city housing authority.

“People should not be defined by their income or ability to pay,” said Pugh.

In the past three years, more than 4,700 new units of affordable housing have gone up in Baltimore.

Across from Pimlico Elementary, existing homes have been rehabbed to be sold with loans that low-income families can afford, and neighbors are getting free repairs courtesy of the city.

Have you been to Upton lately?

While the homes there will be restored, a row WJZ visited with Pugh is about to come down.

“I’ll appreciate it if it happen,” said one Baltimore resident. “And I’m gonna pray that it happen ’cause change need to be coming.”

The mayor isn’t just fixed on developing the city for tomorrow, but on developing it for future generations.

“For me, it’s not what the city will look like in two or three years,” said Pugh. “It’s what the city is going to look like over decades and for our children.”

For more information, visit the City Department of Housing and Community Development website.

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