September 22, 2021

CPHA 101: TransForm Baltimore and Existing Alcohol Outlets

CPHA has well covered the effort to reduce alcohol outlet density via the proposed zoning code that the City Council is presently considering, and last week we offered this update on where the City Council currently stands on the portion of the zoning legislation

The Baltimore City Liquor Licensing Board, a dysfunctional state agency, currently suggests that their should be 1 liquor license for every 1,000 city residents, which would amount to a total of about 625 licenses. The reality is that there are currently 1,330 licenses in Baltimore, about twice the number Baltimore should have and some are operating in residential areas.

In 1971, Baltimore recognized the excessive presence of liquor outlets and used zoning to moderate the impact on residential areas. During this process the city deemed Class A “packaged good” stores as “nonconforming uses” if they were located in residential zoned areas. As a result, they were no longer considered an appropriate use for a primarily residential area. Existing stores were allowed to stay, but no new businesses wishing to sell alcohol could establish in those districts. The hope was that the remaining stores would close over time because of their “nonconforming” status. As the current debate over Alcohol Outlet Density Reduction illustrates, many of these stores benefited from near monopoly conditions and still exist today.

City Council Bill 12-0152, known as “TransForm Baltimore,” would use zoning to reduce alcohol outlet density of packaged goods stores by removing non conforming packaged goods stores and removing pseudo taverns that are currently acting as packaged goods stores. So how will this work?

STEP 1: Phase Out of Residential Liquor Stores

License Type: Class A

  • There are roughly 100 nonconforming liquor stores operating in residential areas
  • Commonly referred to as packaged good stores where alcohol is consumed off-premise only.
  • Within 2 years of adoption, nonconforming Class A licenses must end sales of alcohol or transfer their license to a properly-zoned location in a business district.
  • Business owners may request a hardship waiver, receiving an additional 2 years to adhere to the law, but must cease alcohol sales during that time.

STEP 2: Compliance with Tavern Definition

  • License Type: Class BD-7
  • Commonly referred to as taverns.
  • BD-7 liquor licenses are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on-and-off-site from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
  • The new code requires that all taverns dedicate at least 50% of their sales and floor to on-site consumption to ensure they operate as a true tavern and not merely a packaged good store.

Click on this graphic to see the planned impact of TransForm Baltimore on existing liquor establishments:


CPHA shows citizens how to make their communities better.  For 70 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 include 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 grass roots campaigns that support neighborhood stabilization. CPHA is preparing for the next 70 years by using the latest training and advocacy tools to develop the next generation of civic leaders. CPHA knows Baltimore can be better!

 Check out this video history of CPHA on YouTube.

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 war time 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 war time 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 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 flight 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 included 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 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.

The Archives

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.

Home Act

Understanding the Baltimore County Home Act

The Baltimore County HOME Act would outlaw discrimination against renters based on their source of income. Sources of income covered under this law can include inheritance, disability payments, alimony, and Housing Choice Vouchers.  CPHA is honored to join our partners at Baltimore County Communities for the Homeless, the Public Justice Center, and the Baltimore County Home Act Coalition in working towards passage of this important legislation.

We are no stranger when it comes to improving quality of life in Baltimore County. In the 1950s CPHA pushed for a Baltimore County master plan, for much of the 60’s CPHA fought for the establishment of the Solidiers Delight Natural Environment Area, and in the 1970s we even sued the County for limiting citizen input with regards to reorganization of the County Planning Board. In the year 2000 we held our Rally for the Region at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School in Pikesville. Most recently, we held two community workshops as part of our outreach work with the Opportunity Collaborative in Dundalk and Owings Mills.

Unfortunately, there are a great deal of misconceptions about who Housing Choice Voucher recipients are, the Housing Choice Voucher program itself, and what this legislation sets out to do.  We’ve set up this page to explain the facts behind these issues and to show how such a law will improve quality of life throughout Baltimore county.

CPHA would like to thank Beyond the Boundaries for making our work on the HOME Act possible.

What is a Housing Choice Voucher?

Formerly known as Section 8 Vouchers, the Housing Choice Voucher program is a federal program developed in the 1970s. They are distributed to low income individuals and families who qualify by local housing authorities. Many times recipients do not receive their voucher until they have been on the waiting list for a very long time. In Baltimore County, the average wait time for a voucher is nine years. A voucher can only be used in the jurisdiction it is issued in.

After recipients are awarded their voucher, they may take it to any property that accepts it and charges the amount of rent that is within the guidelines set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The voucher does not necessarily pay for all of their rent. Recipients are required to pay 30% of their income towards the rent. Those portions of the rent not paid by the tenant are paid by the local housing authority with funds provided by HUD to the landlord through direct deposit. The only requirement for landlords is that they pass a basic housing inspection in order to receive payment.

Who are Housing Choice Voucher recipients?

In Baltimore County:

  • 32% are senior citizens
  • 25% are low wage workers
  • 30% are people with disabilities

There is also a special program for veterans and their families called the Veterans Affairs Supplemental Housing (VASH) program.

Why is the HOME Act Needed?

The HOME Act is needed because many landlords refuse to rent to tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers. As a result, voucher-holders are concentrated in lower-income areas of the County. This contributes to racial and economic segregation.

In what communities do voucher recipients live in?

You can view a map of Housing Choice Voucher recipients throughout Baltimore County right here.

Here’s a listing of the number of Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) in select Baltimore County communities. The entire population of these communities are in parentheses:

  • Randallstown (32,430) : 533 HCVs
  • Dundalk (63,597) : 934 HCVs
  • Essex (39,262) : 558 HCVs
  • Middle River (25,191) : 462 HCVs
  • Milford Mill (29,042): 568 (HCVs)
  • Pikesville (30,794) : 395 HCVs
  • Reisterstown (25,968) : 329 HCVs
  • Woodlawn (37,879) : 355 HCVs
  • Towson (55,197) : 242 HCVs
  • Perry Hall (28,474) : 118 HCVs
  • Lutherville (6,504) : 1 HCV
  • Timonium (9,925) : 3 HCVs

As can be seen from the data, vouchers are heavily concentrated on the east and west sides of the County.

Why do some landlords refuse to take Housing Choice Vouchers and why do they oppose the HOME Act?

In public, landlords will state that taking Housing Choice Voucher recipients is an administrative burden and that anti-discrimination protections for voucher-holders are forcing them to take part in a government program.

These are questionable arguments. The only requirement for landlords is that they allow a very brief housing inspection in order to ensure tenants are not living in substandard housing. Some opponents of the law have spread false information that the process for evicting Housing Choice Voucher recipients is more difficult than that for other tenants or that landlords are not allowed to enter the apartments of voucher recipients. Furthermore, we know of at least one large landlord that will take vouchers in less affluent parts of the county but will not take them in more prosperous areas.

The more likely explanation is that landlords refuse to take vouchers due to unfair stereotypes about voucher holders. However, landlords will still be allowed to refuse to rent to potential tenants with a criminal history, poor references, bad credit rating, or any other criteria they judge relevant. The HOME Act only mandates that landlords not discriminate against a potential tenant due to their source of income.

What effect will the HOME Act have on the distribution of poverty throughout Baltimore County?

By outlawing discrimination against voucher holders, the Home Act will open up housing opportunities throughout the County for low income individuals. This will help to prevent and reduce concentrations of poverty.

How will this effect Baltimore County Public School Children?

It’s been said that “housing policy is school policy”. There’s a great deal of research that academic success is closely related to economic status. Research suggests that poor children perform better academically when they attend the same schools as their more affluent peers. The HOME Act will significantly increase the likelihood that a family with a Housing Choice Voucher will be able to move to a high opportunity area and put their child in a good school. It will also be an important tool in preventing schools from being overwhelmed with low-income students. You can read David Rusk’s Housing Policy is School Policy paper for more information.

Do any other jurisdictions have similar laws?

Yes. Howard and Montgomery County, the City of Frederick, and the City of Annapolis have passed similar laws. This law also exists for certain properties within Baltimore City.

At the state level, Utah, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin have such a law. Washington, DC also protects Housing Choice Voucher holders from discrimination.

What are the HOME Act’s chances of passage? What can I do to help it pass?

Advocates for the HOME Act have met with several members of the County Council and a number of them have been sympathetic. The County Executive is also in support of it. This April, more than 100 Home Act supporters packed the County Council Chambers in support of this bill. You can help by signing up for our email newsletter to stay aware of the latest developments, testifying at upcoming County Council meetings and hearings, and talking to your friends and neighbors.