Tagged: Baltimore Brew

City Drops Ball, Citizens Go Public on Facebook, City Says “Don’t Do That”.

Residents in one Baltimore neighborhood have been complaining about one house for months. 311 calls, online complaints, emails to Councilman Curran’s office — and nothing was done…until the residents banded together on their neighborhood’s Facebook group, as reported by the Baltimore Brew.

For months, the residents of the home were dumping human waste into the alley, and leaving buckets of waste at the rear of the property. Neighbors filed multiple 311 complaints, called and emailed their councilman — all the things you’re supposed to do, as a good neighbor, to no avail. I happened to read about all of this on the neighborhood’s Facebook group, and sent an email to Baltimore Housing. Fern Shen of the Brew wrote about the issue, and inspectors were quickly dispatched to the property, where inspectors found more than they bargained for. As a result, the residents of the home have been moved out, and the house has been deemed uninhabitable by Baltimore Housing, and will be secured.

What irks me, however, are the statements made by Alli Smith, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods and Christine Muldowney, a staffer for Councilman Curran.

“I’m glad this issue was resolved eventually. In the future, if you need assistance with issues in the neighborhood, or need to know which agency can resolve a certain issue – the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods is a great resource and you can contact your neighborhood liaison directly,” said Alli Smith, deputy director of that office, writing on the Facebook thread.

“Yes, direct contact is best since there is no guarantee that a city liaison of Mayor or Council will see it,” agreed Christine Muldowney, a staffer for 3rd District Councilman Robert Curran. “I just accidentally saw post here.”

While I agree the initial complaint shouldn’t be on social media, I strongly disagree that these neighbors shouldn’t have complained publicly, using the tools available to them. Isn’t this what social media is for? And what about all of the residents’ 311 calls and emails to the councilman’s office? Why did they go ignored until the issue was made public by the Brew?

This isn’t the first time a resident living in squalor was ignored until it was made public. I’ve personally written about three, and there are many I didn’t write about — didn’t need to, since the issues were resolved through Baltimore Housing. You can read about one of the worst cases I wrote about here.

Many kudos to these residents, and to the Brew, for taking the initiative to get this issue resolved. Hopefully this story encourages more residents to band together, using all the tools available — including social media, to make their communities better.

 

Link Roundup

Haven’t done one of these in a while, so there are lots of random interesting links!

Oh, the things people do in and around vacants…don’t let your kids read this one.

The Chicago City Council approved a measure that offers renters protection if their apartment building goes into foreclosure.

While many residents are pleased with the project at Uplands, in Baltimore, not all are happy with the restrictions.

So far this year, Baltimore has seen 10 fire fatalities, more than in all of 2012.  The man who died in this fire in South Baltimore was one of them.

Lots of arson in Detroit, including this vacant fire.  I guess the arsonist wanted to make sure it REALLY REALLY burned.

I remember Gary, Indiana being a mess when I was a kid — apparently decades later, it still is.  For many of the same reasons that plague Baltimore.

The battle continues over the proposed Royal Farms in Hamilton, according to this article from Baltimore Brew.

A Baltimore Sun letter to the editor regarding the city’s $107 million tax giveaway — very well done, Jeff Singer from Baltimore.

It’s nice to see property owners and developers in other cities can come up with ways to creatively use vacant properties.  Turning them into homes that aren’t over-improved, and renting them for a reasonable, appropriate rent, is a sure way to build stronger neighborhoods.  Kudos to this Cleveland developer!

Richmond’s 9th City Council District is apparently a blighted eyesore, thanks to city-owned blighted property and vacant lots.  Hmmm…

Some Chicago kids may have to walk past even more blighted vacants on their way to school, and it’s not making the parents happy.  Can’t say I blame them!

Milwaukee Fox 6 reports that police are seeing an uptick in scrappers stealing siding from homes, particularly in areas with a lot of vacants.

Shelterforce has been on a recent roll lately with the good blog posts.  This one taught me a new word:  “Metropollyanna”.  Don’t be one of those people.

Also from Shelterforce — do artists have a place in the public planning process?

Nice to see this vacant building in Station North will finally get a facelift after so many years of neglect.

Link Roundup

Lots of good stuff in the news this week!

In the Baltimore Sun, Luke Broadwater reports the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has disbanded and laid off its Housing Security Unit.  These were the folks responsible for “investigating illegal occupants, nuisance activity, unsecured vacants and vandalism”, according to the article.

Developer Mark Manzo wanted to demolish part of a historic 19th Century church to make way for a parking lot for his new townhouses in Butcher’s Hill.  According to this Baltimore Brew article, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) denied the petition, as several neighbors, and District 13 Councilman Warren Branch protested the effort.  One neighbor called the townhouses “boring”.

Vacants are everywhere, including Japan, says Business Insider.

Since you can’t talk about vacants without mentioning Detroit… S&P has downgraded Wayne County’s credit rating to two steps above “junk”, says Bloomberg.  That’s gotta hurt.

You can’t really talk about vacants without mentioning Baltimore or HUD, either — and the Baltimore Sun reports that HUD is shrinking its Baltimore office staff by one-third, as part of a consolidation effort.

In the UK, investors and landlords are being targeted by mortgage scammers.

Speaking of the UK, Britain’s biggest mortgage fraudster was given an extra four years in prison for conspiring to defraud two banks of £61 million, according to the London Evening Standard.  One of his previous scams was selling bogus manorial titles to Americans.

Dozens of homes in New Orleans were moved and then left to deteriorate, at taxpayer expense, according to WWLVT Channel 4.  The nonprofit in charge of renovating the homes, Builders of Hope, is no longer involved in the project.  If you recall, the Baltimore Sun reported back in 2012, the same nonprofit was supposed to partner with Ray Lewis to renovate 500 homes in Baltimore, and that seems to have gone nowhere.

You know life has taken a bad turn when the feds are busting down the door, looking for your 40+ year old son who’s living in your basement.  Van Smith from the City Paper reports on former deputy mayor and state delegate Salima Siler Marriott’s latest woes.

And speaking of the feds — Philadelphia’s notorious “Slumlord Millionaire” Robert Coyle is on his way to the pokey after defrauding a couple of banks.  Nevermind the fact that he’s allegedly swindled people in his “rent to own” schemes, and forced citizens in the Kensington neighborhood of Philly to live next to his blighted nasty homes…oh, and how about the fact that he treated his tenants worse than animals and forced some of them to live without plumbing or heat?  But hey — he defrauded a couple of banks, so off to the clink he goes!

Because sometimes I like to save the best for last…

The man who raped a 13 year old girl in a vacant home (owned at the time by disbarred attorney John Reiff) has been sentenced to four life sentences.  Count ‘em — 1-2-3-4.  I would say justice has been served quite nicely — I hope he also has to pay for the counseling the survivor will need to be able to move past such a horror.

 

Link Roundup

Home ownership rates fell to an 18-year low, according to a report issued by the US Census Bureau on Thursday.

Banks are retreating from low-income neighborhoods, especially those hit hard by predatory lending.

Should landlords be allowed to discriminate against Section 8 voucher holders?  (Or conversely, should landlords be able to run “Section 8 Only” ads, thereby discriminating against those who work?)

To buy, or not to buy…the renter’s dilemma.

A two-alarm fire wiped out two homes in Baltimore — there have been lots of fires on the west side recently, hopefully BCFD Chief Clack is paying attention and realizes his plan to move a company to the east side would be unwise.

The Community Law Center is suing Scott Wizig, a large-scale slumlord who owns many of our city’s blighted homes.  Nice to see other people are finally getting on board with running some of these folks out of town.

Should we continue to pour our tax dollars into the Inner Harbor and Harbor East?  This letter-writer to the Sun says no.

Five years after a Philly woman lost her home to deed thieves, she finally gets the house back.

Can a neighborhood overcome its past?  One neighborhood in Chicago has, despite its chilling origins.

 

Link Roundup

If you live in Baltimore City, you won’t want to miss this important meeting regarding the second round of proposed irresponsible cuts to the fire department.  Your home and family could be at risk!

Yet another mortgage fraudster who operated in a low-income part of Philly has been caught and charged with fraud.  Slumlords and scam artists think if they prey on people in low-income areas they won’t get caught — WRONG!

Speaking of mortgage fraud — a Baltimore man won’t be tasting freedom for a while after scamming several lenders out of over $1 million for his “shabby” houses.

A Clinton, Maryland woman has been found guilty of mortgage fraud.  Despite receiving income from the District of Columbia Housing Authority (Section 8 rent payments), she allowed the mortgages on all of her properties to go into default and pocketed the money.

Congrats to Poppleton residents for rallying around a neighborhood park, saving it from a stalled City development plan!

Henrico (Richmond, VA area) neighbors were up in arms over two vacant properties managed by an out of state firm — Channel 8 news investigated and got results.

Hamilton residents — you’re getting a new Royal Farms whether you want it or not.  [I have to say, I agree with “HS” who left the comment “That’s the problem with one party politics–they don’t even have to pretend that they work for you.”]

Money-laundering charges were suddenly dropped against the owner of multiple blighted properties in Baltimore, Stewart Sachs.

 

 

Link Roundup

Changes coming for BCFD firefighters — the mayor’s budget calls for longer hours, and a loss of 100 to 300 positions due to attrition (depending on which media source you read, the number changes).  This equates to longer hours for what amounts to less pay.  Unfair and unwarranted, how about giving other city employees the same rotten deal, not just the ones who are charged with saving lives?

A sad commentary on public housing in Baltimore.

More suspected arson fires in Detroit, firefighters “pushed to the limits”.

The fight over the city’s new casino project continues.

The Atlantic Cities examines why skyrocketing rents are actually bad for the economy.

A Maryland attorney was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud, stemming from his real estate investment scheme, according to the FBI.

Speaking of fraud, Stewart Sachs, a slumlord we’ve written about several times, has now been charged with money laundering — specifically, a drug dealer’s loan payments.  And they say slumlords don’t commit other crimes…

A bit of drama over at the Annapolis Housing Authority — they’re not sure whether Carl Snowden, a former city alderman, will be allowed to remain chairman of the Housing Authority’s board after he’s released from jail.

The Baltimore Brew asks whether we should house the homeless in the city’s many vacants — what do you think?

While the comments flew after this story in the Brew about liquor stores, Pennsylvania was busy working to end its stranglehold on liquor sales, while in Baltimore…we want the government to have even more control.

Good news-bad news in Cleveland:  The number of vacant homes has increased, despite a decrease in foreclosures.

Milwaukee has decided to use a new strategy to beautify its vacant buildings:  artistic boardups.

Good news for Detroit, too:  Lead poisoning in children has dropped 70 percent, though you have to wonder — have property owners gotten better, or have more people simply left…so there are less children living in lead paint-filled homes?

Link Roundup

Detroit braces for a state takeover, Governor Snyder cites lack of city services to citizens as a catalyst for action.

As much as Baltimore denies its Rust Belt status, looking to other cities like Pittsburgh for ways to revitalize in a sustainable way might be the better route, says an article in Yale’s undergrad journal of politics.

What can you do when your landlord suddenly decides to force you into “instant homelessness”?  If you live in Maryland, the answer isn’t so simple — unless a bill preventing “self-help evictions” passes.

When “affordable housing”…isn’t so affordable.  And what should be done about it?

Bloomberg’s Businessweek, for whatever misguided (idiotic) reason, decided to run an inflammatory cover for its housing issue.  The Washington Post reports on the cover, the actual article, and the fallout.

Baltimore Brew reports on the ongoing saga in Howard Park between Rite Aid, a supermarket chain, and residents.

There are many reasons why people build homes.  For an investment, to live in…and for spite?  There’s a spite house in Baltimore — a “spite apartment building”, actually.  Do you know where it is?

Whether you like them or not, if the Baltimore City Council has its way, your community association may have a bigger say-so in your neighborhood than individual residents.