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Baltimore Mayor orders 30 day review on how city agencies deal with vacant home issues

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 14:00:16-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday directed all City agencies to conduct a 30 day internal review of all existing operations, procedures, and processes related to issues of vacant homes.

The announcement comes one week after three firefighters died in a vacant home that caught fire and collapsed.

RELATED: Firefighter deaths renew concerns over Baltimore's vacant home problem

The City says it's on track to successfully file nearly 500 receivership cases this fiscal year.

As of January 28, there are 15,032 vacant houses in Baltimore City, 13,560 of which are privately owned.

Of those, approximately one-third are either being rehabbed by a private owner, are part of a larger redevelopment plan, are in court under a vacant building receivership action, are being prepared for demolition, or in the process of being sold to a qualified buyer ready to rehab.

Vacant buildings reduce property values, increase blight, attract crime, and pose a nuisance to neighboring properties. Still, the process to clear privately-owned vacant houses often gets bogged down by time-consuming and resource-intensive legal processes.

Before a property can be demolished or renovated, the City must either acquire the property or file a receivership to push the property to public auction.

These properties are often laden with thousands of dollars of debt and title issues, making these legal actions extremely complicated. Rehabilitating a single vacant property has a high cost in terms of labor, time, and financial resources.

All City agencies and departments have 30 days to provide the City Administrator with a full accounting of every effort they are engaged in to reduce the number of vacant properties and provide ideas for best intensifying these efforts. Once the review is complete, Scott says he will announce the next set of goals to reduce the number of vacants.

The city plans to use American Rescue Plan Act funding allocation to address the issues.