BALTIMORE — A new Baltimore City rule requiring vacant homes to have the owner's contact information posted on them, is now in effect.
City Council Bill 19-0429, mandates that the signs have a QR Code that leads the public to the Department of Housing & Community Development's information page, which contains development plans, active notices, permits and the owner or responsible agent’s name, address, phone number, and email.
The city has approximately 15,600 vacant properties, 1,350 of which are City-owned and typically acquired through negotiated purchase, condemnation, or tax-sale foreclosures.
James Washington lives in between 2 vacant houses and he tells us they cause a lot of problems for him.
"You have to deal with rodents, insects, smells, it's just a lot. People in and out of there," Washington explained.
For a while, he hasn't been able to address those who own the houses around him because he doesn't know who they are or how to access that information.
His neighbor Kevin Brim when he purchased a home in 2008 hoped to renovate several homes and lease them to Baltimore families; but, several hurdles got in the way.
"These developers with all of this capital come in here and buy all of these empty buildings and board them up and don't put families in them," Brim said.
Many of those vacant homes are unkept, boarded up and in some cases pose a safety threat to neighboring residents.
When residents want to contact an owner about an issue with their property, they normally have to take several steps searching through records to track them down.
Now the city is working to make that process simpler by posting QR codes on properties where you can type the address and get information instantly.
"That'll be helpful though. That'll be really helpful," Washington said.
"We're tired of the blight. We're tired of the vacancy. something needs to happen with these properties
The City utilizes a combination of tools to address vacant structures, including code enforcement, receivership, acquisition, demolition, an open-bid program, and strategic neighborhood development projects.
Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, who sponsored the bill to create the system, says he went through his own district scanning a few codes and noticed that dozens of the properties within a few blocks were privately owned.
Then he used the code and was able to make contact with several owners.
"Basically look what is the plan for this property? In many instances that call is what made the connection to my office and code enforcement to be able to either issue more citations or open a dialogue to say this is our expectation," Burnett shared.
For Kevin Brim it's a good first step but he'd like to see more actions that follow.
"My question would be what is the next step if they're not following through on their property for 5 years and they've done nothing with it," Brim questioned.