Like Buffalo, Baltimore has lost a significant amount of population (1/3 since 1950), and has more than 16,000 vacant properties. To address its many vacant properties Baltimore has combined the efforts of two agencies into one mission by creating a dual-agency group called Baltimore Housing comprised of the Housing Authority of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development.
According to a Next City article, Baltimore’s strategy regarding vacant properties consists of the following:
First, people need to be organized. Baltimore Housing is working directly with residents, churches, private investors and transit systems to make a unified investment in each community’s unique strength. Second, reliable and organized data must be readily available in order to understand the market and properly measure results. Third, organized capital must be secured. With their three part strategy Baltimore has done the following:
– Implemented a system called Community Development Clusters, designed to encourage investment by mitigating risk for investors. Rather than forcing potential buyers of vacant properties to endure a drawn-out purchasing process, the system is streamlined to ensure that properties can be acquired in roughly 90 days or less.
– Buyers of selected vacancies in these cluster groups can quality for as much as $10,000 in redevelopment aid, with more than 175 of these aid packages having been granted to date. Effective code enforcement also gives private owners the option of rehabilitating the property or opting for demolition based on a number of factors.
Examples of Baltimore’s success:
In the neighborhood of Oliver Vacancies have dropped from 308 to 225 in just two years, with homes beginning to sell for more than $200,000. This outcome would have seemed utterly impossible just 10 years prior. The goal is 100 percent rehab and 100 percent occupancy, which for the first time seems feasible.
The neighborhoods of Oliver and Patterson North are well on their way to rebirth, and the overall vacancy rate has dropped from 36 percent in 2008 to 16 percent today.
About 43 percent of vacancies in Community Development Cluster area have been rehabbed.
Maybe Buffalo and other cities can learn from Baltimore’s success in addressing vacant properties?