Baltimore, MD

Directive issued to decrease number of vacant homes in Baltimore after building collapsed killing three firefighters

Kaleah Mcilwain

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Mayor Brandon M. Scott has issued a 30-day directive for all city agencies to conduct an internal review and provide City Administrator Chris Shorter with a full accounting of every effort they are engaged in to reduce the number of vacant properties in Baltimore.

City agencies will also need to provide ideas for best intensifying these efforts and ways members of the public and private industry can support them.

This directive follows the deadly 2-alarm fire that took place last week in a vacant three-story rowhome on the 200 block of South Stricker Street that collapsed, killing three firefighters and hospitalizing another with serious injuries.

This directive aims to accelerate, expand and enhance the processes of transformation to reduce the number of vacant homes in Baltimore City. Vacant buildings reduce property values, increase blight, attract crime and pose a nuisance to neighboring properties.

As of January 28, there were 15,032 vacant houses in Baltimore City, 13,560 of those are privately owned. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) under Commissioner Alice Kennedy has ongoing initiatives in place to acquire and convert, stabilize or demolish these vacant homes.

Approximately one-third of the vacant buildings are already under a transformation: being rehabbed by a private owner; part of a larger redevelopment plan; in court under a vacant building receivership action; being prepared for demolition; or a city-owned vacant available for immediate sale to a qualified buyer ready to rehab.

“The city has worked to identify and combine funding sources, which has led to progress in reducing the overall number of vacants. But we are ready to redouble our efforts and look for ways to advance the goal of mitigating nuisance properties and holding derelict property owners accountable," said Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy in a news release.

The first step in this 30-day initiative is for Mayor Scott to announce an American Rescue Plan Act funding allocation to tackle vacant homes and blight in Baltimore’s most underserved communities in the coming weeks.

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