Yes, it’s a small one, but it’s definitely an important step towards the goal of ridding our city of blighted vacant homes.

City Council President Jack Young introduced an ordinance (10-0516) that would require the owners of vacant structures (including commercial buildings, multi-unit dwellings, and rooming houses) to register the properties with the City, and pay an additional fee for registering a vacant structure. Some highlights:

  • As vacant homes are a drain on city services, the fines will also increase.  Owners of vacant structures who are out of compliance will be fined an extra $500, to be added to the regular building violation fines.
  • For every vacant structure in Baltimore, the City (and ultimately, the taxpayers) pays $1400 per year (there are 40,000 vacant structures in Baltimore!) for the added burden on City services.  Raising the fees and adding new fines will be an effective measure against further losses by the City because of negligent property owners.
  • The property owner must list a registered agent, and be in compliance with building codes and state/Federal lead paint laws, in order to complete the registration process.
  • The ordinance would apply to any non-owner-occupied structure in Baltimore City.
  • If a multi-unit dwelling is vacant, that property owner will lose their multi-unit dwelling license.

In this afternoon’s Taxation, Finance, and Economic Development Committee hearing, President Jack Young called the vacant property problem “A tragedy for the citizens of Baltimore,” and went on to say that the proposed ordinance “holds owners accountable and creates a revenue stream for Baltimore.”

Also in attendance was Michael Braverman, Deputy Commissioner, Baltimore Housing.  Mr. Braverman seemed excited about the fact that the vacant property registration process would be “web-enabled” and would make the system more efficient, thereby making it easier for people to comply with the new registration procedure and fee payments.  Baltimore Housing is in support of this ordinance, as is the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

We applaud City Council President Young for taking a stand against blight in our city.  The ordinance was approved by the committee and will be put to a vote on Monday, June 27th at 5 PM.  We strongly urge you to ask your City Council representative to support this measure.