History of Baltimore's premier community organizing agency focused on housing, transit, drug treatment, and community leadership development.
CPHA shows citizens how to make their communities better. For 80 years, CPHA has been the honest and trusted broker capable of intervening and coalescing divergent views into constructive solutions. CPHA’s legacy as a first responder to the emergent needs of the region includes the launch of the City Fair, removing alcohol and tobacco billboards from neighborhoods, prohibiting landlords from dumping property from evicted tenants on our city streets, and leading effective grassroots campaigns that support neighborhood stabilization. CPHA is preparing for the next 80 years by using the latest training and advocacy tools to develop the next generation of civic leaders. CPHA knows Baltimore can be better!
A Few Highlights through the Decades
The following are just a few highlights of this tradition of making a difference:
With World War II looming, Baltimore citizens gathered to form a new kind of organization, a citizens-led group concerned with healthy housing and wise urban planning. CPHA’s first meeting was held on April 25, 1941, at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The founders of CPHA had long noticed the slums developing in Baltimore, and urgent challenges of the wartime industrial boom exacerbated problems. In the early years, CPHA targeted accommodating rapid population growth, housing code enforcement, and eliminating slums. Demonstrating an early commitment to legislative action and government accountability, CPHA supported national legislation for wartime rent controls and acted as a watchdog to enforce the law.
Even during the war years, CPHA kept an eye toward the future of Baltimore’s housing, promoting the creation of a Baltimore Master Plan and a comprehensive housing registry to monitor the use and ownership of Baltimore property. In addition, CPHA research revealed a lack of housing options for black Baltimore families. This research led CPHA to promote the creation of additional public housing for people of color.
The post-war years brought two major triumphs: the creation of the City Housing Court to hear housing code enforcement cases and the early phases of the Baltimore Plan for Law Enforcement. For over a decade CPHA teamed with law enforcement and sanitation services in a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood effort to remove code violations, clean streets, and enforce the rule of law. By the end of the decade, the Baltimore Plan, only recently implemented, had already cleaned up over 100 blocks.
In the 1950s, CPHA came of age. With continuing leadership of President Hans Froelicher, CPHA gracefully transitioned through its teenage years. In the process, CPHA earned a national reputation for leadership on urban issues while simultaneously engaging more intimately with specific Baltimore communities.
With the passage of the 1949 and 1954 Housing Acts, Baltimore and CPHA emerged as leaders in urban renewal. CPHA, with a newfound neighborhood-level focus, led renewal efforts in Cherry Hill, Harlem Park, and Mt. Royal. During the 1950s, CPHA also began its zoning alert service, a mainstay of the organization. In 1957, the School Neighborhood Improvement Program began to educate the youth, and through them the entire community, about the benefits of planning and community development.
Showing foresight about growth, CPHA looked beyond Baltimore City borders as well. The decade saw the approval of the Jones Falls Expressway and the creation of Gunpowder State Park. In addition, CPHA pressured the county to develop a master plan and update zoning to prepare for growth. Nationally, CPHA joined organizations from many large cities to form the National Council for Planning and Housing Associations.
The importance of planning and housing policies increased in the 1960s as a white flight occurred to the suburbs reversed population growth in Baltimore. In response, CPHA transformed from an organization with a citywide focus into a partner for communities engaged in their own improvement. With relationships in place, community organizations turned to CPHA for advice and to act as a liaison between them and the city government. The Neighborhood School Improvement Program continued to engage students, teachers, and parents in the issues of community planning. Additionally, the alerting services expanded to include planning and liquor license news relevant to Baltimore neighborhoods.
During the 1960s CPHA expanded its commitment to the green spaces and the environment in the Baltimore Region. The city, under pressure from CPHA, passed the Master Plan for the Parks. In addition, CPHA fought nearly the entire decade for the legislation and funding to create a park in the Soldier’s Delight area of the county.
CPHA added two new tools to its repertoire in the 1970s. For the first time, CPHA entered the legal realm, successfully suing Baltimore County for limiting citizen input through a reorganization of the County Planning Board. This lawsuit set a national precedent for citizen taxpayer suits against government officials for arbitrary action. On the lighter side, CPHA started city promotion efforts through the Livelier Baltimore Committee. The committee hosted the annual Baltimore City fair and biannually released Bawlamer, a city guide written by those who know Baltimore best.
While expanding to new methods, CPHA had one of its most successful periods for legislation and planning. After nearly three decades, Baltimore finally passed zoning laws appropriate to neighborhood needs. In addition, CPHA aided in the creation of the first regional transit plan and the design of a new Inner Harbor. At the behest of CPHA, the County passed the nation’s strongest historic preservation law. CPHA continued to expand its role as a watchdog as well, launching mortgage monitoring services.
As CPHA approached 50, it developed and refined tools for directly assisting communities. At the beginning of the decade, CPHA released its first self-help handbooks and campaigned to create intra-neighborhood connections. As the decade progressed, CPHA introduced three programs that continue to this day: intensive neighborhood leadership development courses, the Baltimore Neighborhood Resource Bank, and tip sheets for community improvement. Entering the 1990s, CPHA’s frequent forums culminated in the City Series, an annual day of speakers and workshops.
At the citywide level, CPHA remained aggressive on the latest issues. Research and legislation focused on Baltimore’s housing. In 1983 alone, CPHA fought successfully for five housing bills, revamping everything from code enforcement to affordable housing. At the end of the decade, CPHA and the city allied to promote recycling and teach communities what they can do to support recycling on the local level.
Always in the business of bringing people together, CPHA continued its success through the creation of coalitions in the 1990s. The Coalition for a Beautiful Neighborhoods, the Coalition for Better Liquor Laws, and the Neighborhood Congress all brought diverse players together and achieved soaring success. The first two coalitions achieved precedent-setting success with the passage of a law banning alcohol advertisements from billboards. In addition, the Coalition for Better Liquor Laws monitored liquor licensing in order to reign in the rampant proliferation of liquor establishments in low-income neighborhoods.
At the end of the previous decade, CPHA had commenced research into education policy. After examining school systems around the country, CPHA allied with neighborhoods to create four new, community-based elementary schools. Years of effort culminated in adjoining of the four schools into the city school system and the city adopting CPHA pioneered approaches for the creation of new schools.
CPHA also demonstrated continued interest in urgent community issues. Working to combat drugs, CPHA fought for the clearance of open-air drug markets, hosted anti-drug workshops, and educated youth to combat ‘hot spots'. In 1994, the Neighborhood Leadership Fellows Program began season-long courses that would train over a hundred neighborhood leaders in Baltimore. CPHA also founded The Live Baltimore Marketing Center, which continues to attract new residents to Baltimore.
The Neighborhood Congresses hosted at the end of the 1990s, as well as the principles of Smart Growth, inspired an unprecedented wave of planning in the new millennium. In October 2000 and again in June 2002, CPHA mobilized hundreds of community, business, religious, and environmental organizations and thousands of individuals from every jurisdiction in the Baltimore region to attend two “Rally for the Region” events. This mobilization, alongside the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and Baltimore Regional Transportation Board’s “Vision 2030″ regional visioning process, called for and shaped by CPHA and our allies in the Baltimore Regional Partnership, effected a transformation of regional transportation politics and shaped a new consensus for official adoption of the Baltimore Region Rail Transit Plan. CPHA defended the Transit Plan through the decade and fought for the creation of the Red Line light rail. Uniquely positioned to work at the city and neighborhood level, CPHA founded the Transit Riders League and worked with the communities near the West Baltimore MARC station to plan transit-oriented development that will enhance their community aspirations.
Additionally, CPHA continued to improve housing and neighborhoods in Baltimore. CPHA encouraged the passage of inclusionary zoning laws, allowing low-income families to move into high opportunity neighborhoods.
CPHA also brought together neighborhoods and drug treatment centers to create ‘Common Ground: Not Battle Ground’, a guide to developing helpful relationships between the two parties. Approaching the next decade, CPHA created the Activate Your Inner Citizen workshop series for community leaders to learn the skills of community development from their peers around the city.
If you are interested in doing your own research on CPHA, please visit the University of Baltimore’s Special Collection on the Langsdale Library website. CPHA documents have been archived for public use.