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In this 2013 photo, Houses along the 500 block of Wilson Street in West Baltimore. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Baltimore examines goal of attracting 10,000 families

The Grow Baltimore Initiative’s research into why people choose to live in or leave Baltimore reinforced much of what was already known about those motives, but also found some surprises in the data.

In 2011, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced her goal of luring 10,000 new families to Baltimore by 2020. Reaching that goal — even before the riots in late April that highlighted what many see as the city’s dysfunction — was generally perceived as a long shot because of high taxes, concerns about public safety and the poor quality of schools.

Research by the Grow Baltimore Initiative, a partnership between the city, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance Jacob France Institute, Live Baltimore and the Goldseker Foundation, by and large found those issues to be the major force preventing people from staying in the city. Rawlings-Blake, after speaking at a meeting on Thursday where the findings were released, remained upbeat about the city’s progress toward reaching her goal.

“I think it’s encouraging. I set out a bold goal of growing our city by 10,000 families, and I think we’re seeing some positive trends for population growth, and more importantly we’re seeing a very collaborative and intentional effort … taking advantage of the things that are pulling people to Baltimore, as well as collaborating on those factors that are pushing people out of the city,” Rawlings-Blake said.

According to the Baltimore City Citizens Survey, conducted by the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy, about one-third of residents surveyed between 2009 and 2013, said they were either likely or very likely to leave Baltimore in the next three years. The top reasons for wanting to leave were crime rate (15 percent); pursuing another job (10 percent); and high taxes (10 percent).

The survey found that public scho0ls, as anticipated, were a major hurdle in attracting new families to and keeping existing families in Baltimore. At 5 percent, poor quality public schools were tied as the fourth most likely reason for leaving Baltimore. The research found that only 29 percent of city public school students do not have Free and Reduced Meal status, and by sixth grade nearly one-third of those students leave the city’s school system.

Researchers, using U.S. Census data, also drilled down to get a better idea of the demographics of the city’s current residents as well as the demographics of those being drawn to the city. They found Baltimore experienced a net loss of 3,580 residents per year between 2008 and 2012 — 74 percent of those residents left for Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. But the city’s 2014 population estimate shows it had a 0.3 percent population growth over the city’s 2010 population.

Of those residents moving to the city between 2008 and 2012, 53 percent were white, and 34 percent were black. During that same time period, Millennials represented the largest percentage of people moving into the city ( 63 percent), but at the same time also made up the largest portion of residents leaving Baltimore (53 percent).

Steven Gondol, executive director of Live Baltimore, said that keeping Millennials in the city as they get older, marry and have children will be key for the city to reach its goal of attracting 10,000 families. He said doing that involves three pillars: quality school options’ housing incentives so families can buy homes that allow them to grow; and various services.

“From Power Plant [Live!] to the pumpkin patch,” Gondol said.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.