Lead poisoning cases are down in Maryland, however — the number of cases linked to homes not covered by Maryland law is on the rise. Sounds like it’s time to amend the law.
Speaking of lead paint — the venerable Kennedy Krieger Institute is being sued in a class-action lawsuit filed by Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy. In the lawsuit, Murphy alleges Kennedy Krieger exposed poor black children to dangerous levels of lead.
Not only is Paul Graziano in the hot seat for refusing to pay settlements of lead paint cases, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa would also like to know how Baltimore’s Housing Authority spent $67 million in federal stimulus money. We’d like to know the answer to that, too.
Jamie Smith Hopkins reports the number of vacant homes in Maryland has increased by 35%, in Baltimore alone, the number rose by 10%. Jamie also wrote a post about rents in Baltimore — and a number of commenters wondered if the high rents charged by landlords who own subsidized housing is skewing the average rent figures — In 2009, the Cato Institute brought this up in an article on federally subsidized housing:
Some landlords, in fact, specialize in Section 8, becoming experts at the complex regulations, and they skillfully work the system to their financial advantage. With Section 8 tenants, landlords don’t have to worry about nonpayment, because the government deposits its share of the rent—the lion’s share—directly into the property owner’s bank account. Moreover, for many buildings the government-paid rent is more than the market rent would be. The reason is that the program allows voucher holders to pay up to the average rent in their entire metropolitan area, and landlords in lower-income neighborhoods, where rents are below average, simply charge voucher holders exactly that average rent.
Jamie Smith-Hopkins from the Sun wrote about the proposed split-level property tax rate that would result in higher property taxes for owners of vacant properties, in her December 13th “Real Estate Wonk” column. The resolution passed the Baltimore City Council, and is already generating quite a bit of debate. Those who are against the property tax hike for derelict properties seem to drag out a Washington Times article that on the surface, seems to support the belief that the increased tax is a bad idea.
Unfortunately for the Washington Times, it would seem they didn’t do such a great job of investigating the people quoted in the article. All of them seem to blame their financial hardships on the DC property tax increase, including one person (Patricia Sweeney) who said. “Last year was a horrible experience with Class 3 properties, and I am no longer doing rehabs in D.C.. I have been stung really bad in D.C., and I will be avoiding it forever.” If 2008 proved difficult for Ms. Sweeney, we have to wonder how well she was doing between 2005 and 2007, when she was the defendant in several lawsuits, including three foreclosures in Baltimore City. She might want to avoid doing business in Baltimore, too, if DC proved to be such “a horrible experience”.
Ron Edlavitch, described as a “lawyer who has worked for renovators and lenders for 40 years” has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, mostly condemations and foreclosures.
Eric Deyale claims to have lost one of his properties as a result of the higher tax rate — yet he couldn’t manage to hold on to another property before the higher rate went into effect, losing it because of overdue 2007 taxes.
Sorry folks, but these stories just don’t ring true with us. If these people were already being sued, forclosed on, and otherwise riding a slipperly slope to financial ruin, an increased tax wouldn’t have mattered much by the time 2008 rolled around. And it’s not going to be the financial ruin of honest property owners in Baltimore City, either. What it will do, however, is make it increasingly difficult for speculators and dishonest property owners to continue to leave neighborhoods in ruin.
Again, we strongly urge you to stop listening to slumlords and those who are tangled in a business mess with slumlords, and please urge Maryland’s elected officials to raise the property taxes for derelict properties. This could go a long way towards cleaning up our city, boosting revenue, and opening the door for homeownership for those who deserve it.
If you don’t know who your State Senator or Representives are, please click here to use the Maryland Election Districts interactive map (or enter your address.)