March 25, 2019
By Tamika Gauvin, City of Baltimore
The Baltimore Innovation Team (i-team) recently kicked off its work on middle neighborhoods, where one-third of the city’s vacant houses reside. There are 22 national and global “i-teams”, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, that are charged with working on issues that mayors identify as intractable challenges in their respective cities.
In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh first identified recruitment and hiring issues at the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), which is significantly understaffed. The i-team is in various stages of testing and implementing the research-driven solutions which were co-designed with the BPD Recruitment Unit and residents from the Baltimore City community.
The next challenge that Mayor Pugh identified is vacant houses. For Baltimore, this has been a challenging and longstanding problem. While there are efforts underway to decrease the number of vacancies, gains are taken away as more houses become vacant. The i-team began collaborating with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to learn how to address this issue. Together, they determined that targeting vacancies in middle neighborhoods had a high likelihood of positive impact, given that a third of the city’s vacant houses are in middle neighborhoods. Stabilization is possible with the right interventions because these neighborhoods are at the tipping point of either growth or decline. Also, few resources and programs are targeted at middle neighborhoods, which leave them susceptible to decline if the current challenges are not addressed.
The i-team is off to a great start, thanks to DHCD; Paul Brophy, Alan Mallach, and the connections they’ve facilitated; local subject matter experts and community leaders who have been generous with their time; and the new connections we’ve made through the middle neighborhoods Community of Practice. We look forward to continue learning and sharing with practitioners, elected officials, community development organizations, government agencies, and others who have been working on middle neighborhoods to date.