Strong, Stable & Connected Communities
Maryland is at a critical juncture. While the State has some of the most economically prosperous communities in the nation, many neighborhoods and rural areas continue to suffer the effects of poverty, disinvestment, and a history of segregation and racial discrimination. Some communities have access to health facilities, grocery stores, parks, quality housing, jobs, transit, and a clean environment; others do not. Neighborhoods and communities of concentrated poverty limit the economic mobility and life expectancy of its residents and impair the State’s economic growth. In addition, many long-stable middle-income areas are facing new demographic challenges as their population and housing ages.
Innovative capital tools need to scale up to accelerate change in distressed and aging communities. There are many examples in Maryland where affordable non-predatory investment and financial services are being invested well in underserved areas. However, the scale of reinvestment needs to increase exponentially in order to change the state’s historic and economically depressed areas into thriving communities. Such investment produces returns in the form of jobs, investment, tax base, and community safety.
We need to allocate existing funding on the most promising and proven solutions and provide additional funds as needed to support new and growing small businesses, affordable and mixed-income housing, community facilities, and other essential goods and services necessary for equal opportunity and better quality of life. Without a dramatic increase in resources to address the scale of the problem, Maryland will become even more divided between communities of opportunity and those in decline, limiting the human and economic potential of many towns, rural areas and cities across the state. Read more about Brooke’s plans for a 21st century transit system.
Maryland Communities of Opportunity Fund
Brooke will advocate for a new Maryland Communities of Opportunity Fund to revitalize Maryland’s historic and older communities. The Fund would set aside 1% of state pension funds to invest $500 million in high-return social impact investments in older communities. These investments will have a triple bottom line: financial, social impact, and environmental. They would include investments in small businesses, mixed-income home ownership, affordable housing, community facilities, green infrastructure and environmental resiliency. Current state funding is woefully inadequate to address the long-time disinvestment faced by Maryland’s older communities, especially given drastic reductions in federal funding since the 1980’s. California, New York, and Rhode Island, have similar initiatives that have safely and successfully generated millions in investment and competitive returns. All investments under this program would be properly and professionally analyzed in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the System. This fund would leverage local philanthropic, corporate and government funds to substantially expand its impact and reduce the risk to the pension fund.
Create Tax Incentives to Support Housing Affordability and Small Business in Older Communities
Brooke will call for establishing a commission to explore the creation of new state tax incentives to support a wide range of mixed-income and affordable housing and small businesses – the cornerstone of rebuilding older communities. State and local governments across the nation have realized new investment by deploying a variety of business, residential, and individual incentives to attract private capital to older areas. With respect to small businesses, these incentives should target historic business districts including downtowns, and state-designated Main Streets and Arts & Entertainment Districts with targeted tax incentives that will bring new jobs and grow the tax base of older communities. Housing tax credits could support a range of new mixed-income and affordable housing, both those developed by developers and those benefiting low and moderate-income homeowners.
Main Street Opportunity Loans & Loan Enhancements
As Comptroller, Brooke will call for the establishment of a $50 million Main Street Opportunity Loan program specifically aimed at providing flexible capital and loan enhancements to Marylanders who are looking to start or expand a business, and have knowledge and experience in their fields but have been unable to access loan capital. The program would focus on entrepreneurs locating or expanding in Maryland main streets, arts districts, and older downtowns. While many small businesses are able to access the capital they need to grow through existing programs like the Federal Government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and other State loan funds, other talented and innovative would-be entrepreneurs in Maryland encounter barriers when trying to obtain capital to start or expand a business. In addition, entrepreneurs need access to more flexible loans and loan enhancements in order to reinvest in vacant and outdated commercial buildings.
Increasing & Expanding the Maryland Historic Revitalization Tax Credit
The Maryland Historic Revitalization Tax Credit is a successful program that puts Marylanders to work rehabilitating one of our state’s great assets – our historic commercial and residential building stock. The economic impact of these projects has an 8 to 1 return on investment for Maryland taxpayers. In the first twenty years, the program has created nearly 30,000 jobs and yielded more than $3.5 billion in economic activity. However, the annual appropriation has been slashed by nearly 70 percent over the past dozen years — with only $9 million available annually to support large, community-scale redevelopment projects across the state. Maryland is also falling behind its peers in supporting this kind of proven program. By comparison, Virginia invests nearly $100 million annually, and neighboring West Virginia now invests $30 million. But more needs to be done to make sure the program realizes its full potential, and that Maryland workers and communities are the ones who stand to benefit. By increasing the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit, Maryland can facilitate more and larger projects, while also requiring that a minimum percentage of construction jobs be sourced from laborers whose primary residence is in Maryland. As Comptroller, Brooke will support the expansion of this successful program.
Reviewing Office-Siting Procurement Policies
As Comptroller, Brooke will undertake a review of state procurement policies that may unintentionally prohibit older communities from successfully competing for the location of state facilities and hinder the redevelopment of state facilities in older communities. Such barriers can include parking requirements, single-use requirements and undervaluing of transit access.
Enforcement That Is Responsive to Community Concerns
Brooke will ensure the enforcement authority in the Comptrollers’ Office will be responsive to community concerns, especially with regards to community nuisances associated with alcohol tax violations. The Comptroller’s Office can use its enforcement action for good to combat predatory business operations in distressed and aging communities.
Increasing Operating Funds for Community Development Organizations
Brooke will support an increase in State Operating Funds for non-profit community development organizations who will lead and coordinate the deployment of resources. Despite a significant increase in state capital support for community revitalization, support for the operating funds needed to sustain capital spending has lagged. As an example, the Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative (BRNI) was launched in 2014 with $3 million in capital funds and $750,000 in operating funds. In FY2020, capital funds rose to $12 million, but operating remained frozen at $750,000. Furthermore, these funds are now shared by many more grassroots organizations. These groups are essential to the success of Maryland’s community revitalization agenda; they manage comprehensive revitalization plans, shepherd catalytic projects, and mobilize public and financial support.
- Brooke has been a key ally in passing legislation to create and support Maryland’s Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative, National Capital Area Strategic Development Fund, Community Legacy and Project CORE programs that have delivered needed resources to aging and disinvested communities around the state. These programs successfully leverage reinvestment in older communities – helping to rebuild communities and our tax base at the same time. She has also consistently supported funding increases for the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit.
- Brooke was instrumental in the formation of the Greater Baybrook Alliance (GBA), a community development organization uniquely positioned to pursue neighborhood revitalization across three Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County neighborhoods. Since its inception in 2017, GBA has brought in over $5 million in revitalization funds, supported and launched community initiatives from housing to economic development to public safety, and coordinated a community-wide response to COVID-19. Brooke has provided hands-on support, including development of the Board and Executive Director, advocating for state and local resources, and building critical partnerships with World Central Kitchen, local foundations, and others.