Except for a few years of college, Ryan Flanigan has lived in Baltimore his whole life. After deciding college was not for him, he returned to the city and worked for an upholsterer for over 10 years, at a shop located in the central Baltimore neighborhood of Remington.
He moved to Remington about six years ago because he wanted to be close to his job and the neighborhood was more affordable than most other nearby neighborhoods. He quickly got involved with community work, volunteering a new community association, the Greater Remington Improvement Association (GRIA).
Through his work with the GRIA, Flanigan has helped the neighborhood tackle significant changes as more developers became interested in the area. “We’ve made some great progress on what I hope are seen as undisputable improvements,” Flanigan says. “We’ve made the neighborhood cleaner, we’ve created more green space, and we’ve partnered on some really thoughtful developments.”
Like many neighborhoods in Baltimore, Remington’s affordability is threatened by gentrification. In recent years, private developers have become increasingly interested in this well-located, previously overlooked community. The investment has transformed several abandoned buildings and rowhomes in the neighborhood, creating new housing and retail space and sparking a renaissance.
While these investments have been good for the community overall, the new developments and amenities have led to rising rents and property values throughout the traditionally affordable working-class neighborhood. According to neighborhood sales data, home prices have risen by more than $15,000 every year for the last five years.
Flanigan, 31, wants to ensure that Remington remains affordable and diverse, preventing economic and racial segregation – issues that continue to plague most of Baltimore City. “We want to keep Remington affordable, we want to keep it a great place for diverse groups of people to live, and you have to be intentional about that,” he says.
“Everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to live with access to the things they need,” Flanigan added, “and the market does not provide that for most people.”
As a Community Fellow, he will work to create the Remington Community Land Trust. The land trust will purchase property in the neighborhood while it is still relatively affordable and sell the houses to low-income buyer. The land trust will provide subsidies to make homeownership affordable and, in return, retain an ownership stake in the property. While he’s still working out the details, Flanigan wants the trust to create a perpetual cycle of affordable homeownership for lower-income buyers.
Another benefit of the land trust is that it returns control of the land to the community. Ensuring the community has a voice in the land trust is essential to Flanigan, who sees this as a partnership project. He will work with GRIA as well as the Baltimore Housing Roundtable, Baltimore’s CLT Collaborative, the Central Baltimore Partnership and others to get the land trust up and running.
Community land trusts are a flexible tool that allows community members to address what they see as their most pressing needs. Other trusts in other parts of the city and state preserve green space or create commercial development or affordable rental homes. The Remington Community Land Trust would remove traditional market pressures and create affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income buyers.
Flanigan hopes the land trust will also create a built-in support network for the homeowner. Homeownership is hard, especially for people who didn’t come from families that owned their own homes. The land trust will build an ongoing relationship with the homeowner to help with maintenance and financial issues.
“Things are fundamentally not working for so many of our citizens, and we need to make systemic changes if we want things to get better,” Flanigan says. “I want to do something that is good for everyone in the city.”