It’s Only Bal-ti-more Wasteland…

My apologies to the Who.

Made a quick trip on the “other side” of North Avenue to see what was back there, more importantly how many abandoned homes there were, and who owns them.  There are literally hundreds — I didn’t have time to document even a third of them, and I was very disappointed to find out most are owned by…the City of Baltimore.

With the number of people in the city who need affordable housing near public transit, all I could think was “What a waste.”  And what a wasteland.  I walked for blocks without coming across another person, yet I could tell there were probably people around — on E. 20th Street, for example, a lot of the houses are boarded/cinder-blocked in the front, but they’re open in the back — easily accessible for vagrants, drug dealers, and prostitutes.

400 Block of E. 20th Street, even side. All but three houses are owned by Baltimore City.

Odd side of the 400 block of E. 20th Street. All but one house is owned by the City.

Walking up Barclay Street was no better — we’ve already written about Barclay Street once, and this end is no better. This block of homes is owned by the City, except for two — and we suspect the City will own both of them soon enough.

2010-2018 Barclay Street

Unfortunately, most of the houses I saw today are structurally unsound, open to the elements, and probably not worth saving.  Which means they’ll have to be razed at some point, leaving swaths of open space owned by the City.  It would be great to see some of the space preserved as open space for a parks, and perhaps some commercial space.  This area is sorely lacking in any amenities, with most residents shopping at the Charles Village Safeway or the closest corner store.  There is a plan in place to redevelop the area — hopefully the plan hasn’t been scrapped.

I really have to reiterate how shameful it is that our City is one of the biggest slumlords — there is no excuse for these properties to be in such disrepair.  I also find it rather ironic that all of these blocks lie within the boundaries of the 12th City Council District, the former district of City Council President Jack Young.  (Carl Stokes took over when Jack Young was named City Council President after Sheila Dixon got the boot.) Especially when you consider the bill Jack Young introduced to the City Council in 2010 — Bill 10-0516 Non-Owner-Occupied Dwellings and Vacant Structures.  The idea is to raise the financial burden on slumlords in order to get them to comply with the law.  How will the City deal with its negligence?  That’s what we’d like to know — the City can’t fine itself, or take itself to court.  There is one thing that makes sense — fire those in charge of our city’s housing stock and hire people who are capable of making hard decisions, and making the right changes to the system — changes that are sustainable over the long term.  Clearly the current leadership is failing.  Redevelopment plan or no redevelopment plan — these houses didn’t fall into disrepair in a matter of weeks, months, or even just a few years.  Someone fell asleep at the wheel a long time ago, and the agencies involved need to be revamped, from the top down.

7 comments

  1. Mark

    I believe Pittsburgh used land value taxation to discourage blight and vacant housing. The city taxes land more heavily than structure values. This creates less of a disincentive to improve structures (because building improvements create less of a tax burden under this system), and makes it more costly for owners to keep buildings in blighted conditions. I’m not sure why we don’t do this here – would probably have to be enacted at the state level.

    Of course, this wouldn’t help the thousands of city-owned vacant buildings.

    • slumlordwatch

      Mark, I’m hoping that the next legislative session will include state laws that address the blighted structure issue, and Baltimore City will have no choice but to comply. Clearly the city is unable to police the issue on its own, so perhaps if the state of Maryland gets involved, certain state funds could be tied to cleaning up the blight — in every town, not just Baltimore.

      Another thing Pittsburgh did that Baltimore has failed to do time and time again — the redevelopment efforts city-wide have been geared towards residents and existing companies. Baltimore is always looking for a savior, and Pittsburgh has the wisdom to know your “savior” is right here, right now. As a result, Pittsburgh’s redevelopment has been successful and sustainable, and Baltimore’s has been a dismal failure — unless, of course, you’re a large corporation who was able to move in for a pittance and at taxpayer expense.

  2. Laura

    I agree that there should be legislative relief vis property taxes in some form. However, what I find even more frustrating, is that the city doesn’t take a hard line and enforce the existing laws already in place.

    • slumlordwatch

      Laura, I agree. We do have laws to deal with things like housing violations and abandoned structures. However, if the city is unwilling to follow the law, perhaps tying some type of funding to the legal process will force their hand.

      Isn’t it time for Baltimore City to stop being a haven for criminals?

  3. Laura

    I’m coming to the opinion that there is somethingwrong w the administration of thiscity. I call itPlanet Baltimore. If we want our city to be a vibrant cross cultural community, then we have to get rid of slum lords. It really is incumbent on the city to enforce the laws. I am taking a stand. I am NOT going to let my neighborhood go to pot. I am forcing the city to do its

  4. Pingback: Phase One of $85 Million Barclay Redevelopment Begins « Baltimore Slumlord Watch
  5. Pingback: Update: 400 block of E 20th Street « Baltimore Slumlord Watch

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