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NAACP leaders demand action following a vacant home fire near their headquarters

Vacant house fire near the NAACP Headquarters
Posted at 7:47 PM, Oct 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-07 08:57:04-04

BALTIMORE — Years of requests and no action taken. The NAACP says Baltimore leaders need to be held accountable.

A fire on Thursday destroyed a vacant building attached to the Baltimore NAACP Headquarters.

They claim that for years, headquarter leadership told the city about the issues involving the surrounding building, and nothing was fixed. One of those issues included squatters in the vacant homes.

In a press conference Friday, NAACP leaders said they want Mayor Brandon Scott to step up and fix the problem or step aside.

"For years, we've been complaining about the dumping there,” said Reverend Kobi Little. “You can't see it now. But we have the pictures from yesterday and I have the pictures from this morning, when only after a fire that consumed two buildings did the Scott administration send two dump trucks, five staff members, and the bobcat loader to clean up all the debris and to clean up the trash from this fire."

He adds that he's raising the alarm about their situation because other vacant homes have caught fire, endangering other people in the city. He also fears it could happen again.

In response, Mayor Brandon Scott says that he and the Department of Housing and Community Development have been working together to tackle the vacant property problem and that they are taking this very seriously.

“This was such an unfortunate incident, and we take the broader issue of vacants very seriously. Yesterday, after learning about the fire, I dispatched the Deputy Housing Commissioner for Code Enforcement to the site directly to speak with Reverend Little to see what they needed in the immediate and moving forward. This property was put into receivership, as my office and DHCD have been taken the issues with this property very seriously. We’ve been working on tackling vacant properties with our partners across the city — because while we currently have the lowest number of vacants in Baltimore in decades — we still know the system has to move faster to legally allow us to address many of them. We invite Reverand Little and the NAACP to be a part of that work.”

In a statement, the Department of Housing and Community Development says they did everything they could legally do, but they couldn't do much since the property was privately owned.

“Baltimore City government has repeatedly sought to address issues at 2 W 26th Street within the confines of our authority under the law. The vast majority of the remaining vacants in Baltimore City are privately owned, including 2 W 26th St. Due to ongoing issues with this property, we have already begun the receivership process. The first trial date was set for 9/13/2023, but due to the absence of representatives of the owners, we had to reissue service on the LLC, and the next trial date has been set for 12/20/23. We cannot go around this legal process. More broadly, the fire at 2 W 26th St on October 5, 2023, is another tragic reminder of the importance of the urgent actions being taken to address vacant and abandoned buildings across Baltimore City. Since 2020, we have decreased the number of vacant buildings from 16,431 to 13,818, the lowest in decades. The vast majority of the remaining are also privately owned. We have achieved this through DHCD’s full suite of tools, including notices and citations, condemnation, demolition, stabilization, tax sale foreclosure, receivership, and now Judicial In Rem foreclosure. Our comprehensive strategy for reducing vacants is working, and we are securing additional resources to expedite our progress. We will continue to take action to hold negligent private property owners accountable for the condition of their properties, and we will continue to make progress to reduce vacant buildings in Baltimore to record lows.”

The Department of Housing says that they have put the property into receivership.

There's a hearing for it in December.