A recap of all the newsworthy links in 2012.
Early in 2012, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was grilled by the MD Legislature about the status of the city’s lead paint judgements. The city was refusing to pay, saying the judgement would bankrupt the city — a shame they didn’t think about that before allowing children to live in lead paint-filled homes.
A Federal judge sided with the City of Chicago in its fight to hold banks accountable for maintaining and securing vacant homes.
Business Insider had this to say about Baltimore’s neighborhoods — apparently some are just not worth saving. Is your neighborhood worth more to you than it is to your elected officials?
Maryland property managers got their knickers in a bunch over being asked to pay what amounts to $4 a month for lead paint insurance. Still seems cheaper than a multimillion dollar lawsuit.
Lots of articles have been written about squatters and takeovers of foreclosed and abandoned homes. This one from the Chicago Tribune, wrtten in March, is particularly good.
Also in March, WBAL suggested development along Baltimore’s waterfront could suffer due to a loss of tax breaks for developers. What were they thinking??
In Chicago, a young girl was raped at gunpoint between two vacant homes in the West Englewood neighborhood. Neighbors say the vacants are more than just a threat to property values.
Instead of paying lead paint lawsuit judgments, the city’s Housing Authority was paying for take-home cars for its employees, according to WBAL’s Jayne Miller.
Metro Dream Homes owner and founder Andrew Hamilton Williams, Jr. was sentenced for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost numerous people their homes, and bilked them out of $78 million.
Philadelphia rejoiced upon hearing that Robert Coyle, the “Millionaire Slumlord” was charged with defrauding banks of $10 million.
I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten in the past year from people who have major problems with their “rehabbed” homes, due to the fact that the “contractors” never bothered to get permits. Here’s a story from the Baltimore Sun about one such homeowner (he’s also my neighbor, and a stand-up guy.)
Another article on rehabs without permits appeared in the Baltimore Sun in April. This time, the owner was threatened with jail time. I guess since it happened in Canton, the city decided to get tough.
The Detroit Free Press did an excellent series on keeping schoolchildren safe on their route to school — something most people take for granted. Unfortunately, in some major cities — kids have an unsafe walk, passing vacant homes that are a magnet for criminal activity.
Travers and Tremayne Johnson, two brothers who were accused of setting a dog on fire, were found not guilty by a Baltimore jury.
BCFD wasn’t meeting NFPA standards for response times, according to an article by Baltimore Brew — yet the mayor and Chief Clack continued with their plans to close three Baltimore fire companies.
Detroit experienced a rash of arsons back in April — 16 fires in all, on the city’s east side.
According to a Baltimore Sun article, Builders of Hope, a North Carolina-based nonprofit chosen by Ray Lewis, was supposed to be renovating hundreds of homes in Baltimore City, near Johns Hopkins University in East Baltimore. Since then, we’ve heard nothing about the project — or the organization, except news of their ongoing dispute with the City of New Orleans and two contractors, allegedly for nonpayment of invoices.
April and May brought the mayor’s proposed cuts to the fire department — including the removal of truck and engine companies that serve our city’s poorest neighborhoods. Thankfully, one truck company was spared the axe. Two were not so lucky.
Speaking of the fire department, May saw quite a few arson fires — including more than 12 in Youngstown, OH.
Firefighters in Huntington, WV let a vacant home burn after being called to the same address multiple times.
And a fire in the 1100 block of Barclay Street in Baltimore may have been arson, according to this Baltimore Sun article.
And in the “It’s not just you, Baltimore” category: In June, DC City Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown was charged with mortgage fraud.
In July, the head of Baltimore’s housing authority continued to justify the agency’s refusal to pay court-ordered lead paint judgements. While Paul Graziano was busy refusing to pay these judgements, a DC man was scamming the Housing Authority of almost $1.4 million.
American Banker discussed the pros and cons of using eminent domain as a way for municipalities to get vacant homes out of the hands of banks.
Two big storms hit Baltimore City, and the mayor and fire chief still wanted to cut our fire companies. This didn’t sit will with the two IAFF Local presidents.
BCFD Chief Jim Clack received a hostile reception from IAFF members at July’s Firehouse Expo.
Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation expanded a home renovation program for veterans.
WBAL asked if Baltimore City would pay for residents’ flooded basements, or will these residents once again get stuck with the city’s tab?
After being called to aid an injured man, a Baltimore City EMT and the patient fell through a hole in the front porch of a vacant home, into the basement.
Also in August, the Hip Hop Chicken on Hillen Road, a place where some swear you could get the best chicken ever — caught fire.
A fair housing case that dates back to 1995 was finally settled, giving some Baltimore families the right to move into safer housing.
Lots of housing-related crime happened in September. Kenneth Koehler of Baltimore pleaded guilty to wire fraud, in a scheme that left mortgage lenders holding the bag for over $1 million in debt. Six Upper Fells Point homes went into foreclosure as a result of this scam.
Lorain, Ohio used an interesting method to move vacant homes to demolition — search warrants.
Los Angeles City attorney called US Bank and Deutsche Bank “slumlords”, accused the banks of neglecting foreclosed properties.
Detroit Crime Commission tackled crime by going after large-scale slumlords, vacants, and arson.
An Ellicott City woman pleaded guilty to stealing $1.5 million in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Also in September, a series of arson fires did some major widespread damage to Detroit’s east side.
I was in Baltimore Magazine in October. Spending four days or more with a journalist is like therapy (only cheaper and more fun). I highly recommend it. I also did a Q&A with Technically Baltimore — they appeal to my data nerd side, and who doesn’t like talking about data?
Edward Ericson, Jr. from the Baltimore City Paper wrote about the debacle with the Prisoner’s Aid Association-owned properties that have been condemned, foreclosed on, or are in foreclosure. It’s definitely worth reading both articles: First Article Second Article.
The Baltimore Sun reported that former District 2 councilman Nick D’Adamo was given a cushy job as a “Special Assistant” to BCFD Chief James Clack. Hey…wasn’t Squad 11 in D’Adamo’s former district?
Speaking of dumb moves by government — Wayne County, MI (yeah that’s Detroit) is apparently got rid of its ability to investigate and prosecute arson cases. In Detroit. A city with probably more arson than any other city in the world.
Just as BCFD Chief Clack finished crowing about his impressive fire statistics in front of the City Council — five people, a grandmother and four children, were killed in a house fire. As much as people like to bandy about impressive stats and data — actions still speak louder than words.
ProPublica published their “Living Apart” series in November. The series is about fair housing in the US, and how things went terribly wrong, despite the best intentions of lawmakers on both sides of the fence. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
Baltimore City demolished a block of vacants in West Baltimore — I hope it turns into something that benefits residents. You can see how the block looked before demolition here.
Baltimore Brew was quick to report on the community impact grant money our city gave the casino developers — money that was earmarked for poor communities like Pigtown, Sharp-Leadenhall, and Westport.
In Milwaukee, WI, foreclosed and abandoned homes continued to be a problem — yet Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker used settlement money received from a federal mortgage abuse lawsuit to balance the budget.
Want to buy that vacant foreclosure next door before it becomes a neighborhood nuisance? That may be harder than you think.
Louisville, KY created a registry of vacant homes, and a plan for what to do when owners don’t maintain them.
Foreclosed home caretakers sued a Bank of America affiliate in California, claiming the company cheated them out of overtime and wages.
As you can imagine, folks in Cleveland are tired of slumlords, too. And they had some words for an absentee slumlord who lives in Florida.
In New York, an attorney was convicted on multiple counts of mortgage fraud, but the NY Attorney General lost a few counts, despite testimony from the attorney’s employees.
An office building in downtown Baltimore will be converted to apartments — however, it looks like no affordable units are planned.
ABC2 News reports that an Owings Mills Man will be spending the next 25 years in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Even more apartments coming to downtown Baltimore, according to Steve Kilar at the Baltimore Sun. It’s unclear whether any of the buildings will include workforce housing.
A rather bizarre interview with the CEO of Wells Fargo about the economy, mortgage fraud, and board conflicts.
DSNews and CoreLogic report that mortgage fraud is on the rise again, with increased short sale fraud expected.
Howard Park is still waiting for their ShopRite Supermarket — what’s the holdup?
Interesting to see that Johns Hopkins is pledging millions of dollars to fix up the neighborhoods surrounding its Homewood campus — what about all of the lead paint-filled blighted homes owned by the Bloomberg School of Public Health near Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore?
Speaking of mortgage fraud, three people were indicted for their role in a fraud scheme that concentrated around houses in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood.
PG County has seen its fair share of mortgage fraud, too.
Brighter days ahead for one Detroit neighborhood — thanks to the residents who live there.
While steel shutters might be great for keeping vagrants out of vacants, they pose a challenge to firefighters and might result in greater property loss, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief of Special Operations Michael Fox.
TODAY, December 31, is the last day you can file your Maryland Homestead Tax Credit application. If your application is not postmarked by today, you will not receive the credit — file now!
Maryland home values fell 7% in 2012, according to this article in the Baltimore Sun.
NY AG to Wells Fargo — You’re violating the terms of the mortgage settlement agreement. (Surprise, surprise, Wells Fargo is up to its shady business again….)
Also from DSNews, the feds have decided to go after companies for their mortgage advertising tactics, particularly the way they target seniors and veterans.
Add your thoughts to this Shelterforce poll: Should neighborhood-based housing groups still do housing development?
From Shelterforce’s Rooflines blog: Marrying rehab and affordable housing in Milwaukee.
A little late, but our thoughts are with Baltimore Brew editor Fern Shen as she helps her family deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
New Chief of Administration at Baltimore Housing: The Daily Record reports that Margaret (Peggy) Webster has joined Baltimore Housing as chief of administration for project finance. Hopefully she will be a strong voice in favor of paying the City’s lead paint settlements.
Why is the city a mess? It’s not a lack of money or opportunities, according to one former teacher. — it’s the parents.
The Maryland Department of Planning, after reviewing 120 days of public comment on its initial draft of PlanMaryland, today released a revised draft of the State’s first strategic smart growth plan.
Totally not planning, housing, or city related…but hey, I assume you eat? And if you eat, you should thank a farmer. Attend this amazing fundraising event, and help Maryland’s farmers.
And speaking of Detroit… From @stephencearley — a great article on Detroit in GQ. Again, a refreshing perspective on urban renewal — one that Baltimore refuses to implement in a comprehensive way.
Yet another property tax scandal in Baltimore — some vacant property owners have been illegally receiving the homestead tax credit.
The Sun’s editorial staff thinks the mayor should be developing a plan to renew the city. To that, I say “Well…duh.”
A note from me: Don’t forget to vote on September 13th. we need new leadership in this city…and staying home on primary and general election days won’t help. Get off your duff and vote!
Lots of lawsuit links this week!
A Federal judge has given the go-ahead for a couple of lawsuits against Wells Fargo, including Baltimore City’s. As you may recall, Baltimore City had a hard time getting its act together, and their initial lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Motz. Then another one was denied.I would say maybe the third time’s a charm for Charm City…except the third lawsuit was also dismissed, and the current one is actually the fourth.
For you policy nerds, Brookings has released a new report on strategies for reclaiming vacant land/property as a way to kickstart economic growth. Another way to deal with blight is to erect a giant ferris wheel and pray people can’t see around it.
Banks and lawyers aren’t playing nice-nice, so some foreclosures are in limbo, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Another one for the housing policy nerds among you — there are lots of nasty buildings in the Bronx, and there’s a report to prove it.
One person who’s probably not a fan of lawyers these days — the former director of the Havre de Grace Housing Authority. It would seem he got a little loosey-goosey with the HA’s cash, and bribed contractors.
If you’re looking for a new job, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition is looking for a Development Assistant. You might want to hurry up and apply, because the national unemployment rate just went back up to 9%.
If you’re a fan of street art you’ll want to check out this new installation by Gaia, Nanook, and Sebastian Martorana — “Succession”, Monday May 16, 5PM to 7:30PM — 307 W. Baltimore Street. (Link goes to a Facebook event page).
We haven’t done one of these in a while, seems like a good time.
In the Baltimore City Paper, Ed Ericsson writes a story on “demolition by neglect” in Fells Point. Will the City ever learn its lesson and stop selling off City-owned property to irresponsible developers? This story doesn’t give us much hope, especially when we learned that one of the “developers” is a former Baltimore Housing Commissioner.
While we’re on the subject of not learning lessons, apparently the FHA forgot about one of the main causes of the real estate bubble, and decided it would be a good idea to relax their rules for house flippers. It’s rather ironic that while the FHA decides to open the floodgates for yet more investor greed, the Washington Post reports that “a rising FHA default rate foreshadows a crush of foreclosures”.
If you’re in need of foreclosure info, Congressman Elijah Cummings will be holding a foreclosure prevention workshop Saturday, February 6th at Woodlawn Senior High School. To register, or for more information, follow this link. You must register by tomorrow, Feb. 3.
We reported on Detroit’s “vacant-house-as-art” project, and it turns out that a Cleveland group is getting creative with vacant property, too.
Some bills before the Maryland Legislature this year:
- SB 373, Property Tax – Tax Sales – Complaint to Foreclose Right of Redemption
- HB 63, Eminent Domain – Condemnation Proceedings and Limitation on Condemnation Authority
- SB 413, Property Tax Credit – Replacement Home Purchased After Acquisition of Dwelling for Public Use
- HB 475 / SB 285, Smart, Green, and Growing – The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010
- HB 456, Mortgage Foreclosure Bankruptcy Exemption
Speaking of bills, please don’t forget to send your state legislators a letter in favor of the Split-Level Property Tax in Baltimore City.