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Are $1 row homes possible in Baltimore?

Posted at 9:48 PM, May 19, 2021

BALTIMORE — We’ve got 15,000 vacant properties in Baltimore City.

A lot of people question whether we should rebuild or tear down the blocks of abandoned homes that have become eyesores.

There is a group fighting to give people back their blocks— for the cost of just a buck down with 1% interest on the loan.

The big question is where does the money for a program like this come from?

An organization called HOMES was on a conference call with the acting housing commissioner and local politicians to find a way to make it a reality.

HOMES Stands for Homeownership Opportunity and Mentorship for Economic Succession.

They are proposing bringing in a program where the city sells vacant homes and lots for $1 with a 1% interest.

Lt. Col. Ret. Tyrone Bost runs the program.

“I did two tours in Iraq and I come back to this country and I’m looking at our communities, we spent time overseas building other people’s countries,” Bost said. “I come back to my own community and see we don’t have enough money to rebuild ours.”

Redlining, generational wealth, and decades of disinvestment in black and brown communities made blocks look like this.

The holdup is city funding.

HOMES calculated it would cost roughly $7 million for the pilot to do 40 houses.

Figuring it would cost around $150,000 for a minority contractor to build a house from ground up.

“They say they have a lot of housing programs. None are this simple, I don’t believe,” Bost said. “None of them you are going to get your money back. This is a loan program, you’re getting your money back with 1% interest.”

On Wednesday night, HOMES had the ear of Acting Baltimore City Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy during a conference call.

She said there are several hang ups including the fact that most of the estimated 15,000 Vacants aren’t owned by the city.

The next issue is they don’t have a source to get to the 1% interest rate and the HOMES Project is one of 40 being considered to allocate $620 million in federal funding.

Lastly there is the question of if this program can be considered for that funding.

“Whether or not we can use these funds in a revolving loan manner to provide mortgages,” Kennedy said. “It’s the key question that I have asked. This program would depend upon that answer in terms of being able to use those funds.”

If the program gets funding the goal is to hire young ex-offenders and young people to work for the contractors to do the work.

Charles Dugger committed his life to Baltimore youth as a city school teacher for 46 years.

He says this program is an opportunity to teach young people trades, give them employment and eventually buy property in their neighborhoods.

“Baltimore didn’t get flooded with guns and drugs by accident,” Dugger said. “How else could you have gentrification without this is a terrible place I wouldn’t stay here. This is a great it’s what we do with it. I hope this program will get an opportunity.”

If the dollar house program sounds familiar it’s because it did exist in the 70s and 80s and was successful.

The HOMES group is meeting with the city to discuss a plot of 40 homes or lots for a pilot program.

If city funding isn’t an option, another option is partnering with Community Development Financial Institutions for funding.

If this is something you are interested in, Bost said you should reach out to your council person and the Mayor.