7-29-11: Baltimore Elections 2011 — Vacants
Every Monday and Friday until the election, we’re going to bring you coverage of the issues that are playing out in the Baltimore mayoral and city council elections. We’ll talk to an expert on the topic, sometimes a reporter covering the issue, and we’ll reach out to the mayoral candidates themselves for input.
First, we tackle the question of how to deal with vacant properties in Baltimore. We talk with Julie Scharper, city hall reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Eric Siegel, former reporter for the Sun on housing issues and other topics, tell us how the city has dealt with the problem in the past.
We gave the mayoral candidates one week to reply to the question: If elected mayor, how would you combat the problem of vacants in Baltimore?
We received three responses.
Voicemail from candidate Jody Landers: E-mail from candidate Catherine Pugh:
Boarded up and abandoned houses in our city are not only a blight on our communities but represents decades-long neglect on behalf of past and present political leadership. Not all boarded up homes in our city can be rehabilitated. Many will have to be destroyed and sold to community groups to determine their best use. But instead of bundling boarded up properties for sale to developers in masse, let us revive the $1 House Program so that people who have the desire and can obtain the financial resources to maintain the property have the opportunity to become homeowners. My administration will offer, in addition to the first time homebuyers program, the same incentives to new homeowners that we use to entice our police officers, firefighters and teachers to live in the city. This program will also limit the yearly property tax obligation of these new owners to $2,500-$3,000 for a decade as they move forward in rebuilding their home and their community.
I am also a strong proponent of working with the leadership of our city’s colleges and universities to create a pipeline program that steers graduates to homeownership. Too many young graduates leave the city but continue to work and play in and around Baltimore but don’t contribute to our tax base, as homeowners do.
And finally, I want to concentrate on growing Baltimore’s population over the next ten years through effective governing that will give potential and former residents the confidence to believe that Baltimore is a place they could safely raise their families, work and enjoy a vibrant and thriving community life.
E-mail from candidate Otis Rolley:
I would do three things:
– I would cut taxes for every homeowner, to reduce Baltimore’s highest-in-the-state property tax rate, and make it more affordable to live here.
– I would target and penalize absentee and negligent landlords who leave our neighborhoods scarred with blight and too often havens for crime; and
– I would move quickly to transform city-owned properties into new development — not just homes, but also open space and parks because open space is important to a neighborhood’s strength.