Shore Tour South African group explores housing solutions
EASTON — On a mission to provide affordable housing solutions in the African continent’s southern-most country, a delegation of South African social housing professionals explored Talbot County’s best practices and historic legacy on Friday, Aug. 11.
Led by Liz Glenn, the former deputy director of the Baltimore County Department of Planning, and Don Bibb, executive director of the Talbot County Housing Commission, the tour of affordable housing and historic preser vation in Easton began with the delegation’s arrival shortly after 2 p.m. at the Talbot County Visitors Center on Harrison Street.
Four of the six delegates representing the National Association of Social Housing Organisations in South Africa, the Housing Association of East London and the Steve Tshwete Housing Association toured the Hill area, one of the oldest settlements of free African-Americans in the United States, as well as affordable housing projects in Easton.
Gathering ideas and information on the walking tour were Olga Noma-Thunzi Ramashamole, Thembela Nzilana, Winile Michael Mtsweni and Karabo Stephen Motsoeneng.
The tour was featured on the second day of a professional exchange and tour from Aug. 9 through 19. The other members of the delegation, Montebang “Lawrence” Ramashamole and Thomas Ntuli, were scheduled to arrive Sunday, Aug. 20.
NASHO and the Maryland Association of Housing and Redevelopment Agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2016 to establish their first exchange.
“We are delighted to be here,” Glenn said. “This has been a dream 20 years in the making.”
Welcoming the delegation were State Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37 Mid-Shore, Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B Talbot, Talbot County Council President Jennifer Williams and Easton Mayor Robert Willey.
Before the tour began, the leaders presented the delegation with a full-sized Maryland flag and posed for photos.
Easton native and Morgan State University Professor Dale Green, an expert in architecture and historic preservation, led the tour of the Hill.
Green explained the significance of historic landmarks and the process of rehabilitating historically important homes, such as the Civil War and Buffalo Soldier House on the corner of Higgins and South streets.
“This gives me hope,” Ramashamole said. “For me, this is reality: to have something like this,” she said, pointing to a dilapidated home under restoration at the corner of South and Locust streets, “and turn it into affordable housing.”
Holding up her hand, Ramashamole pointed to each finger to provide an analogy. She said the shorter fingers represent those needing housing assistance and the longer fingers stand for those who can help provide it.
“We have to work together for the benefit of the whole community,” Ramashamole said. “This makes me to love housing.”
Mtsweni was impressed with the durability of historic homes, especially those built with timber rather than bricks, which is the most common building material in his country, he said.
He and Motsoeneng noted Talbot’s organizations geared toward providing services to children and youth.
“They are giving more to the community,” Mtsweni said. “They don’t care only about their money. They care about children.”
“We are honored to be able to show this to the delegation,” Bibb said.
He has worked with Glenn for the past 20 years and calls her an “international matriarch.”
“We learn so much from others,” Glenn said. “We get more in return in so many ways.”
“With employment reaching as high as 40 percent in the Western Cape of South Africa, creating a sustainable housing sector that provides workforce development and employment opportunities is critical,” Glenn stated in a press release.
“South Africa has more than 2,000 informal settlements most without running water and sanitary sewer,” the release stated. “(The country) needs quality technical assistance and capacity building support that focuses on providing beneficiaries with the necessary skills and training to be self-sufficient and to be able to sustain their housing programs.”
Glenn said the country has built three million new housing units in the past 20 years, but “the flood of immigrants arriving daily and the substandard construction and unsanitary conditions of the informal settlements fuel the need for additional housing and well-planned communities. The current need is estimated to be over two million new units.”
Affordable housing and jobs “provides an entry point into the local economy through the construction, management and maintenance of housing,” the release stated. “The NASHO MAHRA Professional Exchange will provide an opportunity for social housing organizations in South Africa to be exposed to best practices in affordable housing and community development in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
The delegation “is learning smart, concrete, achievable things they can do right away,” Glenn said.
“It is a lot (here) that is done for the community,” Ramashamole said. “I’m glad I came.”
A reception featuring an Eastern Shore dinner of steamed crabs, fried chicken, corn on the cob and potato salad capped the delegation’s visit to Talbot County.
The South African delegates are scheduled to participate in the Mid Atlantic Regional Council of the annual conference of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Aug. 17 and 18 in Washington, D.C., when U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will give the opening plenary speech.
The professional exchange will be an ongoing element of the MOU between MAHRA and NASHO. The MOU will expire in May 2020 but will be eligible for renewal.
Easton native and Morgan State University Professor Dale Green, left, an expert in architecture and historic preservation, begins a tour of Easton housing restoration projects and historic locations, including the Hill, for a delegation of South African housing professionals.
Local and state leaders welcomed a delegation of housing professionals from South Africa who toured the historic Hill area of Easton on Aug. 11.
Local and state leaders presented a visiting South African professional housing delegation with a Maryland flag on Aug. 11 in Easton. From left are State Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37 Mid-Shore, Thembela Nzilana, Talbot County Council President Jennifer Williams, Winile Michael Mtsweni, Karabo Stephen Motsoeneng, Olga Noma-Thunzi Ramashamole and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B Talbot.
Liz Glenn, left, former deputy director of the Baltimore County Department of Planning, and Don Bibb, executive director of the Talbot County Housing Commission, led a delegation of South African social housing professionals who explored Talbot County’s best practices and historic legacy here on Friday, Aug. 11.