BALTIMORE — They've been called death traps, havens for crime and a blight to Baltimore's beauty.
Blocks of vacant homes replace dozens of thriving neighborhoods.
That is the story for Jean and Adrian Stiths home ownership was always the American dream.
“I was so excited. First time homeowners. We had neighbors they were friendly,” said Jean Stiths.
Then one by one the neighbors who completed their neighborhood vanished and standing in their place are empty eyes staring back.
“When I walk out the door, I see vacant houses across the street, I see rats running in and out the windows. I shouldn’t have to see that if I'm a homeowner. It makes me not want to live here,” Stiths said.
The homes that go up for sale and get purchased doesn’t always equate to the progress the Stith’s are looking for.
“This house right here’s been auctioned. It's a nice house but nothing's been done to it since it was auctioned off. This house that they auctioned off they have been in there fixing it. This house nobody's been in there. Those end houses they started work then they stopped. The end house caught on fire. It's like this house has been empty since we've been here. The auctioning isn’t really working. They buy them and they don't do anything with them. What’s the point” Stiths questioned.
Their street now full of absentee owners leaving behind crumbling vacant homes crushing home ownership dreams.
“The back of the windows and stuff are falling in the back of the house messing up my house. From water damage coming in there, they're starting to mess up the inside of my kitchen wall. Why should we as taxpayers have to pay for houses that don't belong to us that are falling apart?”
Councilwoman Odette Ramos, representing District 14, is working to address issues with vacant houses in the city.
“We will be doing a lot of work to try to make sure that once there is a vacant building notice on a property there are more citations on that property will be able to get that persons attention . There's a lot of talk around a vacancy tax. There's lots of different things that we're looking at,” Ramos shared with WMAR-2 News.
She attributes some cases like the Stiths' to an already back-logged court system.
“All of our cases are kind of jumbled with everything else and so if we could have our own vacant housing court so that we can get properties through a lot quicker than we will have a lot more success,” said Ramos.
It's success Jean and Adrian desperately want to see. "I'm paying a lot of money for my house. I want my house the way I want it but it's like I'm putting my money in it for no return because the more I'm putting into it the more the vacant houses messing it up. It makes me want to pack up and leave my house because it's not worth it,” she said.