Vacant Properties In Baltimore 2022
At the end of January 2022, Baltimore mayor Brandon M. Scott compelled all City agencies to conduct a comprehensive, internal review of how they handle vacant properties. The announcement came after a vacant house collapsed during a fire, resulting in the tragic deaths of three firefighters with another severely injured. It marked the acceleration of ongoing efforts by the mayor to address the issue.
About one-third of vacant buildings in Baltimore are currently being transformed, whether due to private owner-funded renovations or as part of a larger redevelopment plan. Additionally, the Department of Housing and Community Development has made efforts to acquire vacant properties for conversion or demolition. Nevertheless, vacant properties remain a big problem due to their tendency to attract crime and stifle housing values in the area.
In early March, Mayor Scott announced plans to use $100 million of Baltimore’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds on a housing initiative that includes a strategy to deal with vacant housing. It is the largest allocation of the ARP money so far, which speaks to the mayor’s emphasis on this issue. As he mentioned, the plan “builds on [their] efforts to increase housing stability by focusing on protecting Baltimore homeowners and renters, preserving housing gains and preventing blight, and supporting projects that are primed to create pathways to equity and neighborhood transformation.”
While the plan has been relatively well-received, some skeptics point to past failures to address the vacant property problem in Baltimore. For starters, new buildings are abandoned at a pace that matches or exceeds the rate at which vacant properties are transformed. Furthermore, while Mayor Scott promises that the efforts will be “holistic” and address the root causes of building abandonment, there are concerns as to whether it is sufficiently nuanced.
Other mayors will be closely monitoring the success of Baltimore’s program, so if you own a property that is currently vacant, you should do the same. Whether the building is unused due to renovation, for sale or rent, or any other reason, it is a good idea to check with your city regarding local regulations. Additionally, make sure you have a vacant property insurance package to cover your building, as generally, homeowner insurance rarely covers such assets.