With the passing of HB 2, Baltimore officials are hopeful they have another strong tool in their toolbox. As a community that has long struggled with vacancy and blight, I am hopeful too.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide some words of caution.

A quote from a recent article states;

“Lawmakers say they don’t expect anyone will pay any increased tax, so instead, it will allow the city to take possession of more properties through the “in rem” foreclosure process, which allows the city to acquire properties where the value of the liens exceed the value of the property.”

Baltimore has been down this road before with their “Project 5000“. The results, per the Baltimore Sun  “Under the plan, the city bought nearly 7,000 unoccupied properties — then got stuck with most of them, as officials struggled to find buyers.”

As the article continues, Baltimore has been challenged in effectively disposing of vacant properties they own. Is acquiring more en-masse through in-rem foreclosure the answer?

As we reported on over two years ago, there are other concerns as well.

They definitely are trying, everything from (ill-advised) QR codes to their promising “Clean Corps Initiative”. However, I’m not optimistic when it comes to the City acquiring the properties, unless there is an ever stronger push to ensure they are moved quickly to the right entities, for-profit or not-for-profit.

Perhaps the answer is re-examining the 2009 proposal for a “nonprofit, quasi governmental land bank that would oversee the acquisition and disposition of vacants”. This proposal was removed from consideration within weeks of Mayor Sheila Dixon’s resignation in January of 2010, following a gift card misuse scandal.