When you think of poverty, you probably think of an extreme lack of income, but research has found that the lack of assets is much more prevalent and hindering of economic mobility. The economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fragility of the average American’s personal finances. Most people are working paycheck to paycheck, and this is truest for households that have low incomes.
The ability to acquire assets is what determines long-term stability and security, and the opportunity to build intergenerational wealth. According to a June 2021 report by the Brookings Institute on the Black-White gap in multigenerational poverty, more than one in five Black Americans (21.3%) are in the third generation of family poverty compared to just 1.3% of whites who are experiencing the same. The racial disparities continue to shock, as they found that 59% of 30-something aged Black Americans have a grandparent who was poor compared to just nine percent of whites.
At BRHP, our focus is on providing housing choice and mobility to create better life outcomes for families in our program, but we know that in most cases, that is not enough to create long-term economic mobility. While our program has been very successful in empowering families to transition to quality housing in higher opportunity areas, and research has shown the benefits that will accrue for the children in these families, we know that many adults in our households remain stagnant with their income growth and are in search of ways to grow both their income and assets. The other reality is that we have over 14,000 households on our program waitlist and due to federal funding constraints, we have needed to identify ways to serve more families with young children. Our newly announced asset building program, GAIN (or Growing Assets and Income), is an intentional strategy to create a pathway for financial, career, homeownership and educational success for our clients.
On June 24, as a part of our “BRHP in Conversation” series, we sat down with Markita Morris-Louis, chief strategy officer of Compass Working Capital, to discuss asset building as a tool for lifting families out of poverty. Our talk with Markita was inspired by the recent funding and development of our GAIN program. We sought to better understand Compass’s acclaimed asset building model and Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) programs as a whole and their impact on families. We also wanted to share this information with other public housing authorities and others working in and supporting housing equity as a viable and time-tested tool for addressing poverty. Our discussion began with an introduction to FSS through a video testimonial from a woman named Lidia, who was able to purchase a home she had been renting for 8 years through the Compass Working Capital’s FSS program.
“We take an asset development approach to poverty alleviation because we know that assets are a stronger predictor of family stability than income,” said Markita. “In fact, it tells a fuller story about those who experience financial challenge in our country.”
Oftentimes, financial assistance programs address a family’s immediate income needs, but do not help the family to build assets. Markita mentioned that these families are often penalized for having assets while receiving such benefits and are therefore left asset poor, which she describes as “not having savings or not being able to access at least 3 months of savings to meet your basic needs and to cover living expenses for 3 months.” This is a unique benefit of FSS programs – the ability to receive federally subsidized housing while also being able to save and grow money.
The graphic above explains the FSS savings process. Many families who receive federal housing assistance feel that they take one step forward and one step back when they begin to earn more income because their rent also increases (per HUD guidelines). The FSS program addresses this by allowing the participant to save an increase in their rent resulting from increases in earned income every month in an escrow savings account that accumulates over time. This allows the participant to use the accumulated funds to achieve their financial goals, whether it be establishing emergency savings funds, education, entrepreneurship, or even homeownership. There is no other anti-poverty program like FSS.
“They dream. They get to dream and set goals and work really hard to achieve those goals and actually have the resources to execute on those goals,” said Markita.
Nationally, FSS serves approximately 70,000 families with three out of four families being Black or Latinx. Compass’s clients are majority women at 91% and 85% are women of color. While touting FSS as an effective tool for addressing racial and gender wealth gaps, Markita emphasized that the program is filling in the gaps for what the U.S. needs to provide in the forms of reparations at scale, redress of centuries old racial and economic injustice, and accessibility to baby bonds and guaranteed income. The FSS program has been active for 30 years and has received bipartisan support through multiple political administrations.
With funding support from the Abell Foundation, BRHP looks forward to taking up the mantle of asset building along with Compass to address the lack of wealth-building opportunities for families with low incomes, and we look forward to making economic mobility the norm for more families here in the Baltimore region. Catch the replay of the discussion below and learn more about the qualities of a strong FSS program and how you can start your own to support your community.
Tiffani Long is the Senior Communications and External Affairs Manager at the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership
Note: BRHP’s program waitlist remains closed until further notice.
Over the past 15 months, BRHP has made significant changes to its operations as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to thank you for your understanding, patience, and cooperation during this time as we adapted to new technologies and ways of work to continue our operations.
We are pleased to announce that starting on July 6, 2021, we will be reopening our office to participants and property partners of the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program by appointment only. The following office reopening protocol will be applied and enforced:
Appointment only: The office is available to guests by appointment only. You may make an appointment either by using our online form at https://brhp.org/office-appointment/ or by calling our hotline number at 667-207-2100.
Face masks required: All office guests will be required to wear face masks in the office, including for the duration of your appointment.
BRHP will continue providing the following offerings and services:
Electronic document submissions: Our website allows for you to submit many documents to ensure you maintain good standing with our program. You may also continue to scan documents to us. We suggest you download the free Genius Scan application to scan documents. Instructions for downloading and using the application can be found on our website at www.brhp.org.
BRHP hotline number: The BRHP hotline will remain in effect and have dedicated staff on hand to answer questions and check the status of paperwork. The hotline number is 667-207-2100.
Drop box: While we encourage you to submit your documents either by appointment at our office or electronically through our website, we understand that this may be a challenge at times. For this reason, our secure drop box will remain active in our elevator lobby for document drop offs. This drop box is locked and checked daily.
Dedicated email addresses for specific paperwork: These emails allow us to better address and process your paperwork. Please see a list of important email addresses below.
email@example.com– To communicate with inspections team and return self-certification forms.
firstname.lastname@example.org – To submit interim change forms and supporting documentation for decreases in income.
email@example.com – For submission of leases to HCV leasing team.
firstname.lastname@example.org – To submit request to move forms and associated documentation.
email@example.com – To submit recertification packets and supporting documentation.
firstname.lastname@example.org – To submit rent increase request forms and supporting documentation.
email@example.com – To submit interim change forms and supporting documentation.
firstname.lastname@example.org – To submit Request for Tenancy Approval forms and supporting documentation.
email@example.com– To submit Final Eligibility applications and supporting documentation.
We look forward to welcoming you back in the office and assisting you with your housing needs. Thank you for your cooperation as we work to reopen in an efficient and safe manner.
The initiative is a first of its kind collaboration between the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, Housing Authority of Baltimore City, and local healthcare providers.
For Immediate Release: June 3, 2021
Contact: Tiffani Long, firstname.lastname@example.org, 667-207-2154
Baltimore, MD – The Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership (BRHP) announced today that it was the recipient of a $400,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to administer the Healthy Children Voucher Demonstration, a program that will assist 150 Baltimore City families move to better quality housing to improve their health outcomes. The initiative is a partnership between BRHP, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), researchers from Johns Hopkins, and local healthcare providers, and has the goal of addressing underlying causes of poor health, low educational attainment, and intergenerational poverty.
The program’s implementation funding follows a one-year planning phase that was also funded by the Kresge Foundation in 2019 as a part of its Advancing Health Equity Through Housing Initiative. The funding will support the program over two years and will operate in conjunction with BRHP’s Baltimore Housing Mobility Program, which helps over 4,300 families annually access and transition to better quality housing and neighborhoods throughout the Baltimore region through a coupling of Housing Choice Vouchers and pre- and post-move counseling services. The program will target families with children who can benefit medically and developmentally from making a move to a healthier home environment.
“We are excited to partner with HABC and the prestigious healthcare experts we have here in Baltimore to interrupt cycles of both poverty and poor health that plague so many families with low incomes in our city,” said Adria Crutchfield, BRHP executive director. “It’s about giving more families a fighting chance at a better quality of life and health through housing, not just for now, but for generations to come. A place to call home is the foundation for good health and we appreciate the Kresge Foundation’s support of us to make an impact through this initiative.”
Program participants will include current HABC voucher holders, who will be referred to the program by their healthcare providers and screened for eligibility and interest by the housing authority and BRHP. All participants will complete the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program’s counseling program before receiving a voucher to lease housing in the private market. Participants will receive support from the counseling program for one year following their move.
This unprecedented health effort comes at a pivotal moment as the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted low-income communities of color in Baltimore City. Over the next two years, the program will track the health outcomes of participants through interviews and surveys. The initial focus of the program is to give healthcare providers a mechanism to address patients’ medical conditions through healthier housing.
“This is an exciting opportunity for some of our families in the Housing Choice Voucher Program,” said HABC President and CEO Janet Abrahams. “Where a family lives can greatly influence their health outcomes. Conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, and lack of prenatal care are prevalent in many of the low-income communities we serve. Through this partnership, HABC is supporting giving families the opportunity to live in potentially healthier environments.”
For more background on the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership: www.brhp.org
For more background on the Housing Authority of Baltimore City: www.habc.org
The new program will increase the economic resiliency of 250 low-income families throughout the Baltimore region.
For Immediate Release: May 14, 2021
Contact: Tiffani Long, email@example.com, 667-207-2154
Baltimore, MD – The Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership (BRHP) announced today that it was the recipient of a $400,000 grant from the Abell Foundation to launch a new asset building program that will enable families assisted through the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program to set and achieve their education, career, and financial goals, and support full financial independence. The program, Growing Assets and Income (GAIN), will model the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program, which enables HUD-assisted families to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on public subsidies.
The GAIN program will be funded over two years and target BRHP families who are nearing full financial independence. The program will follow a structured monetary incentive model centered on achieving a set of education, career, financial health, and homeownership milestones that contribute towards enhancing economic status. In this effort, BRHP will seek to partner with entities in the field who are leaders in leveraging FSS programs and developing client-centered asset building models for housing providers.
“The will for financial freedom is strong and this program will provide a way towards that goal for families we serve. We understand that asset building is the pathway to greater financial independence and an opportunity to break intergenerational cycles of poverty. The GAIN program will give our families supports and incentives to become economically resilient and ultimately build savings through a time-tested model,” said Adria Crutchfield, executive director at BRHP.
BRHP has over 14,000 households on a wait list for the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program. The wait list has been closed since 2017 due to federal funding constraints. Through the GAIN program, BRHP will graduate families from the rental assistance provided by the housing mobility program to then issue the available vouchers to applicants from the wait list.
“We are making a targeted effort to increase the economic position of the heads of households in our program,” said Pete Cimbolic, managing director of operations and program evaluation at BRHP. “For every family exiting the program through this economic initiative, a new family with young children will get an opportunity to reap the benefits of rental assistance, housing mobility, and counseling to access quality housing and neighborhoods of their choice throughout the region.”
For more background on the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership: www.brhp.org
For more background on the Abell Foundation: https://abell.org/
On March 30, 2021, BRHP hosted an information session on the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination process with Rachel Thornton, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University, Corinne Keet, MD, MS, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Deidra Crews, MD, ScM, Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Catch the replay below as well as a list of resources below.
BRHP COVID-19 Vaccine Info Session Resource List
As of April 9, 2021
Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination phases and eligibility in Maryland: https://covidlink.maryland.gov
Statewide pre-registration system for mass vaccination sites: https://onestop.md.gov/preregistration
Call this number to reach the state’s call center to pre-register for an appointment at a mass vaccination site. This line is open from 7am to 10pm daily.
Anne Arundel County
COVID-19 Health Line: 410-222-7256 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm; Saturday, 10am to 4pm; Sunday, Closed)
Call if you’re a county resident and are unable to preregister for a vaccine online.
Maryland Access Point of Baltimore City: 410-396-CARE (410-396-2273)
Call if you live in Baltimore and are an older adult in Priority Group 1A, 1B or 1C. Available Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8:30am and 4:30pm.
Baltimore City Convention Center Field Hospital: 443-462-5511
For more information visit Baltimore Convention Center Vaccine Location | University of Maryland Medical System (umms.org).
COVID-19 Hotline: 410-887-3816
Call the first number if you’re eligible and need help making a vaccine appointment. If you’re a senior, you can also dial 311 to reach an operator who can assist.
COVID-19 Call Center: 410-876-4848 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm)
Call if you live in Carroll County and need help pre-registering for an appointment.
Harford County Health Department: 410-838-1500
Call and press 4 if you’re a Harford County resident, in vaccine priority Group 1A, B or C, and need help completing a vaccine eligibility form.
Coronavirus Information Line: 410-313-6284;
Call this number or email HoCovaccine@howardcountymd.gov if you’re a Howard County resident who’s 75 or older.
State-Run Mass Vaccination Sites
Baltimore Convention Center (Baltimore City)
M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore City)
Maryland State Fairgrounds (Baltimore County) – opening week of April 5
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Anne Arundel County)
Leidos Field at Ripken Ironbirds Stadium (Harford County) – opening late April
The Mall in Columbia (Howard County) – opening late April
Six Flag’s America (Prince George’s County)
Frederick Community College (Frederick County) – opening week of April 12
Montgomery College (Germantown Campus) (Montgomery County) – opening week of April 5
Hagerstown Premium Outlets (Washington County)
Regency Furniture Stadium (Charles County)
Wicomico Youth & Civic Center (Wicomico County)
FEMA-Run Mass Vacction Site
Greenbelt Metro Station (Prince George’s County
Try calling your local stores:
On March 10, Marcia Fudge was confirmed and sworn in as the 18th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Adria Crutchfield, executive director of the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, issued the following statement regarding her confirmation and swearing in:
“BRHP congratulates Secretary Fudge on her new position and looks forward to working with the Secretary to make fair and equitable housing a priority again. We have full confidence in her leadership, experience, and commitment to civil rights to tackle the housing challenges ahead and she has our support here in the Baltimore region to ensure more people have safe, quality, and stable housing.
As a HUD-funded housing mobility program, we’ve seen first-hand the social, educational, and economic benefits of rental assistance and housing mobility counseling for over 5,000 families in our region. Over the past year, Housing Choice Voucher programs like ours have been critical to keeping people safely housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, there are thousands more in our communities who face housing instability and are eligible for rental assistance but remain on waitlists. Secretary Fudge’s dedication to carrying out President Biden’s commitment to expand rental assistance and the HCV program will ensure we are a country that makes housing a right for all and not just a privilege for some. BRHP has demonstrated the efficacy of counseling supports such as housing search assistance, landlord-tenant mediation, and connecting families with resources. Those critical services should be included with any expansion of rental assistance and we look forward to working with the Secretary’s team to facilitate this work.
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and housing crisis, solutions rooted in dismantling structural inequalities must be at the forefront of HUD’s work. Communities of color and urban communities across the country have long-endured unjust housing practices, neglect, and disinvestment that have barred them from realizing their American dream. We look forward to a new day at HUD under Secretary Fudge’s leadership that will put the country on a path to a better, brighter future.”