Tagged: Pigtown

Update: 912 S Carey Street

This home has been vacant for many years, and it was originally added to the blog in 2009.  Unfortunately, no action was taken and the house continued on its decline. It was purchased by Money Line Mortgage, LLC (717 N Union Street, Unit 111, Wilmington, DE 19085) in 2013.

Earlier this year, someone was sent to work on the home and clean it out, presumably to get it ready for sale. However, the company never bothered to pull any permits for the work, never got a dumpster for the trash they cleaned out, and left a 6-foot high trash heap in the rear of the home. As of yesterday, the roof and part of the rear wall have collapsed, and most of the trash heap remains.

912 S Carey Street, September 2015
912 S Carey Street, September 2015
912 S Carey Street, October 2015
912 S Carey Street, October 2015
912 S Carey Street roof and partial rear wall collapse
912 S Carey Street roof and partial rear wall collapse, October 2015

Let’s Talk About Trash

…because as Baltimore residents, that’s what we do. I’ve never discussed garbage more than after I moved to Baltimore in 2000. It’s a constant struggle and source of frustration — if you belong to your neighborhood’s Nextdoor, you probably see the same complaints over and over again, as I do. One of my neighbors constantly described the goings-ons by one family he dubbed “The Trash Heaps” — lest you think he was simply being unkind, let me assure you, he was being dead-on descriptive. That house was a nightmare and a constant source of emails in my inbox. They no longer live on my neighbor’s street, and God bless whoever gets them as neighbors…I hope you really like the sight and smell of a lot of garbage.

Trash in Pigtown, West Ostend Street, June 22, 2015
Trash in Pigtown, West Ostend Street, June 22, 2015

Now, according to the Baltimore Brew, the City wants to implement a pay-as-you-go scheme for trash collection. You may think this is a great idea. You may wonder what took them so long. You may be so thrilled you’re beside yourself, reveling in the glee that comes with city-provided trash cans and a pay-as-you-go trash pickup scheme. Or, like me, you could shake your head and wonder why on earth our City government doesn’t stop to think that perhaps asking people to pay as they go…for anything city-service related…is a bad idea. Hint:  They probably won’t pay.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a pretty decent sort. You pay your taxes, put out your trash in a bin with a lid, and don’t make a general nuisance of yourself to your neighbors, regardless of the kind of neighborhood you live in, or your income level. You’re just the kind of person my dad referred to as “good people”. Yay you!  And you’re thinking “This is a great idea. Now our trash collection will be more streamlined. More efficient. Less trash in the streets.”  My dear reader…”streamlined” and “efficient” + Baltimore City government…do you see where I’m going with this?

O, Irony!
BELIEVE can outside a vacant.

Lest you think I’m in the business of slamming the good folks at DPW, think again. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for 15 years, and I couldn’t ask for better trash collectors. They actually are efficient. And nice. My trash can is always placed back onto my patio after they haul the contents away, and I’ve never lost a lid yet. The only time I lost a trash can in those 15 years was shortly after Martin O’Malley came up with his limp “BELIEVE” campaign and we were all given a trash can with that word emblazoned on the side. Oh I believed, alrighty. And my trash can was promptly stolen the day after it arrived, never to be seen again. I believed, (for a hot minute) and then I had to haul myself to the Home Depot to buy another darn can. It should have been a sign, I tell you.

The simple fact of the matter, however, is that many people –regardless of race, gender, socio-economic blah blah blah — just people from all walks of life, believe me, do not know how to properly dispose of their trash. Or they’re too lazy and/or cheap to do so. I used to watch one of my neighbors (a lawyer, mind you, with a slightly low-rent TV law firm) throw his household trash next to the corner trash can (and not even on trash collection day!), on the ground, and la-di-dah his way to work. For months, years, this went on, until he and his wife moved away.  Meanwhile, the Section 8 folks down the street faithfully put out their cans (with lids!) every Tuesday night and didn’t make a mess (I still think half the block blamed them and not Mister Lazy Lawyer.)  They still live in the neighborhood, thankfully.

Trash dumped on West Ostend Street in Pigtown, June 22, 2015
Trash dumped on West Ostend Street in Pigtown, June 22, 2015

The point of this post is to illustrate that my neighborhood, like so many across the city, have long become dumping grounds. And not just by rogue contractors, waste haulers, and homeowners who are doing a rehab and don’t want to pay the dump fees. We’ve long been a dumping ground by the very residents who might live next door. Across the street, and we’re tired of it. Implementing a pay-as-you-go trash collection scheme might work in some neighborhoods that don’t already have a trash problem. And that’s great. But for those of us who do — it’s going to result in more illegal dumping, more trash, more rats, and might just be the incentive for many of us who have stuck it out, to leave.

It’s a bad plan, and will end up being punitive towards those residents who do follow the law and dispose of their trash properly. As with most things in Baltimore, it boils down to a lack of enforcement and punishment that actually acts as a deterrent. I would urge everyone to contact their City Council representative and ask him or her to squash this bad plan, which only amounts to yet another tax on our city’s struggling middle class.

Update: 923-927 Washington Boulevard

These properties are scheduled to be demolished July 1, 2015. One other property on this block was demolished (a large corner building) and the parcel will be turned into a fenced parking lot for the short term. Hopefully someone will eventually purchase the lot and build something to benefit the surrounding neighborhood.

In the meantime, have a look at 923 while it’s still standing. Sadly, the condition of this property only declined since 2011 when the original information was posted.

914 Ramsay Street

Property Address: 914 Ramsay Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

Property Owner: Raminder Gill, same address

City Council District and Contact:  District 10, Ed Reisinger

State Senator:  Catherine Pugh

State Delegates:  Barbara Robinson, Frank Conaway, Jr., Antonio Hayes

This property is currently the subject of a tax foreclosure, initiated by Heidi Kenny‘s law firm. As a result, the owner has ceased doing any work on the property, and all permits are now expired.

914 Ramsay Street
914 Ramsay Street

 

A Small Victory: 1101 Nanticoke Street

Finally, after four years of court hearings and inaction on the part of the former owner, 1101 Nanticoke Street has a new owner — Karen Gross, a Baltimore realtor. Hopefully she will do something with the home and it can be sold, alleviating the nightmare the former owners caused.

What’s Your 2015 Housing Resolution?

Reposted from Housing Policy Watch:

People make much of the idea of “two cities” in Baltimore — one, affluent and white, and the other is usually labeled as poor and black. This view leaves out the third group: the folks, black and white, who earn around the city’s median income of $40,000 or so, and have solid potential to be upwardly mobile over the long term. You know — the working families who don’t consider themselves rich or poor, just…somewhere in the middle trying to get by. They don’t qualify for housing assistance, and even if they did — they probably wouldn’t apply (who has the time to hold down a full-time job, run a household, raise kids or take care of elderly parents or an ailing spouse, and commit to the arduous process of applying for social services?), and there isn’t a whole lot of moderate-income housing for them anyway.

It’s not like I’m saying anything I haven’t said a million times before, and won’t keep saying  — but I have to wonder why, in a city with so much potential safe and affordable housing — we have so little of it.

One of the reasons is the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is the agency in charge of setting what they deem a “Fair Market Rent (FMR) for every Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Our MSA includes Towson, Columbia, and all the other wealthy suburbs in between. The idea is to set the FMR at a level that would allow low- and very low-income renters who receive Section 8/Housing Choice Vouchers to move from their neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into areas of prosperity (and higher rents). This is problematic on multiple levels:

  • Most poor people, through either a lack of means or a desire to stay near jobs, family, and other support systems, don’t actually move far away if at all. It’s hard to leave family support and friends, particularly if a low-income family relies on family and friends for childcare and/or transportation. Also, many wealthier suburbs (and even wealthier city neighborhoods) don’t have adequate or reliable public transit, making it hard for low-income families to access jobs, childcare, doctors, or shopping.
  • Because the FMR is based on a geographic area that includes wealthier suburbs, the FMR is unreasonably high in many of our moderate- and low-income neighborhoods. To ask someone earning the median, or just on either side of the median, to pay $1250 a month (approximate FMR for a two-bedroom house or apartment in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson MSA) without housing assistance in many of our neighborhoods drives out the stabilizing force that moderate-income working families bring. It also drives away their current and future tax dollars, and consumer spending.

Many of our city’s neighborhoods, despite news and other reports to the contrary, are either stagnating, or they’re becoming even more concentrated areas of poverty, as more prosperous neighborhoods receive development projects and other attention from the State and City governments. (See concentrated poverty map again, to reiterate this point.) Oftentimes, this is due to investors snapping up cheap and foreclosed homes to flip and turn into Section 8 rentals. In Pigtown, one LLC flipped one block of homes to another LLC, for around $19,000 each, further destabilizing home prices. Inexplicably, one of the homes is now on the market for $174,000, when many homes on surrounding streets are on the market for far less. How long before this block of homes is turned into Section 8 rentals, if they don’t sell? Turning them into rentals those with moderate incomes could afford would be the better course of action — it would add stability to a floundering neighborhood, and could potentially raise property values as these renters turn into buyers.

From a 2003 National Housing Institute/Shelterforce article:

During the past decade, speculators saw an opportunity in Patterson Park – and in the loopholes of the voucher program. They found they could snap up vacant rowhouses for as little as $10,000, give them a fresh coat of paint, pass Section 8 inspection, and start to rake in vouchers worth $700 a month, much more than the rentals would be worth on the private market. As groups of out-of-town investors got in on the deal, Section 8 families flooded into as many as 700 of Patterson Park’s rowhouses. The neighborhood became visibly poorer and shabbier as the landlords ignored maintenance. “The people buying here were not experienced property managers,” Rutkowski says. “They were accountants and lawyers in the suburbs.”

While Patterson Park has improved considerably since 2003, it still struggles with investor-owned low-income housing. Something that could have alleviated current and past problems — mixed-income housing, and the stability that moderate-income earners bring to the table.

Some encouraging news was reported in this morning’s Baltimore Sun: One development near the biopark in West Baltimore will have 20% of its planned units set aside for moderate- and low-income tenants. Whether this plan comes to fruition or not — that remains to be seen.

Making affordable housing for working families a top priority of City and State government needs to happen. Our city cannot afford to be divided in three — it needs to come together to find real solutions that aren’t tied to nice-sounding theories and campaign contributions. Solid investments in our neighborhoods, a commitment to making Baltimore a liveable city, and reworking of HUD’s FMR would be a great start. Let’s make this happen in 2015 — together.