BALTIMORE — A local non profit is taking a ground up approach to grow and invest in West Baltimore.
At the core of Parity Homes mission is people.
In just the Harlem Park and Sandtown Winchester neighborhoods there are around 5000 vacant properties.
Rodney Green and his family have lived on the 500 block of N. Carrollton Avenue since the 1980s.
“It was a thriving community,” said Green. “We had drug stores, laundry mats, grocery stores. We had a lot of people kind of personally invested in this neighborhood and it seems to have diminished.”
There are a lot of challenges in trying to turn a block around.
Some properties belong to someone who passed away or a defunct LLC.
Another issue is speculators sit on the properties and try to sell the shells for way more than they are worth.
“A lot of these properties have accumulated tax liens on them or other liens,” said Bree Jones. “Especially in the Black Butterfly in West Baltimore. Properties can have up to $100,000 or more in unpaid property taxes. That poses an additional hurdle because you have to have those liens abated and that takes months.”
Jones is familiar with these issues because she saw her neighborhood in NYC become gentrified.
The “Black Butterfly” is a name for the areas of East and West Baltimore that have been historically dis-invested in that surround something called the “White L”.
She started Parity Homes, a non profit with a goal of renovating 10 blocks a few row homes at a time.
They have around 90 people interested in owning one of the properties and have pre-sold 13 of them.
“We have a cohort that we call the collective,” Jones said. “Where people who have been renting in the neighborhood, perhaps their whole lives, can get on a pathway towards owning some of these affordable homes. But we also do anti displacement work for folks who aren’t going to buy one of our homes. We work to increase housing stability for renters, elders in the neighborhood.”
Part of the process is a 6 month course where they learn about home ownership, the history of the neighborhood, and the ways they can help bring make it a vibrant community again.
“I’m glad to see people investing back into community and believing that this community can be thriving again,” said Green.
On Saturday at noon they will have a ground breaking and block party on the 500 block of N. Carrollton Avenue.
Everyone is invited out for the free music, food and tree planting. The hope is to get the community engaged with the project and bring more people in so they can bring back more blocks.
To learn more about Parity Homes and help with their mission click here.