For the residents of the Oliver neighborhood in East Baltimore, one of the most welcome signs of change these days is the demolition crew.
Recently, they celebrated, along with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, as a city-sponsored wrecking crew leveled the 600th vacant house, part of a surge in demolitions over the last two years. The current wave of demolition has been fueled by the $9 million proceeds received by the city in a settlement of a mortgage scam.
“There are new investments coming,” said the mayor said as the latest house was razed. “There is a brighter day for your community.”
The $9 million is earmarked for rebuilding the community by demolishing and rebuilding a series of vacant homes.
With over 40,000 vacant buildings in Baltimore, 16,000 of them registered by the city as vacant homes targeted by the city, the task of stemming the decline of real estate and restoring neighborhoods is daunting, city officials and residents say.
Neighbors in the Oliver neighborhood and in blighted neighborhoods throughout Baltimore are pleased that the dilapidated, empty buildings –often home for homeless squatters, illegal drug users and vermin—are being targeted for removal.
“I think this is a great thing,” said Brianne Mobley CQ, a resident in Northeast Baltimore. “Many times when I travel around Baltimore, especially in the downtown area, I am always amazed by the blocks and blocks of boarded up and condemned homes.”
Rawlings-Blake also said that the movement to renovate the blighted areas will get a boost from a $900 penalty for failing to maintain property. Legislation was just enacted by the Baltimore City Council to get property owners to upgrade neighborhood residents, or encourage residents to move or sell their property.
“It encourages the property owner to fix up their property, raise their property, or sell their property,” said Councilman Carl Stokes CQ.
The revenue from these fines will be used to renovate many homes before they become vacant so demolition is not always the first option.