Baltimore’s newest push to reduce vacant housing gets off to rocky start
A new legal process heralded as a game changer in tackling Baltimore’s vacant housing crisis got off to a halting start at a circuit court hearing Wednesday morning, underscoring that there are no easy fixes to the longstanding problem.
The new tool, called “judicial in rem foreclosure,” allows the city to obtain ownership of a vacant lot or building where the value of the property’s liens — unpaid property taxes, citations, and water bills — exceeds the value of the property. Ideally, city officials would then turn to trusted community developers or partners to remediate, rehabilitate or demolish the properties.
But the city’s attempt to acquire its first eight properties hit a speed bump Wednesday after a circuit court judge identified technical errors in the city housing department’s legal filings and notifications to owners, heirs, mortgage companies, lien holders and banks associated with the properties.
Judge Sara D. Walsh delayed action on all eight homes — which are located in Four By Four, a Northeast Baltimore neighborhood sandwiched between Clifton Park and Baltimore Cemetery. Hearings for additional properties have been scheduled as far out as March.
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