Baltimore must implement laws, policies, regulations and practices that restore Black people and communities. (Courtesy of the Mayor’s Office)
By Nneka Nnamdi
My lived experience and research show that racism in public policy has damaged Black neighborhoods and disproportionately harmed Black residents wherever they may live. The interpersonal violence we see in the community is the direct result of the economic violence perpetrated by the city’s Black codes, Jim Crow, Ordinance 610, restrictive covenants, redlining, urban renewal, contract lending, land use and zoning, disinvestment, tax sale, subprime lending, etc. COVID-19 further exposed these deep wounds’ impact on housing and health outcomes in the Black Butterfly.
In response to these conditions, Mayor Scott ran on and other elected officials espouse a commitment to creating racial equity in the city. But there can be no equity without repairing the damage caused by the long list above. In order to achieve equity, Baltimore must implement laws, policies, regulations and practices that restore Black people and communities. As a part of the Mayor’s Business, Workforce and Neighborhood Development Transition Committee; the big idea I offered for his first term was to begin to dismantle and defund racism in city government and its agencies specifically surrounding real property. These are priority actions to begin that process:
- Abolish tax sale of owner-occupied units and enable installment payment plans.
- Ramp up the “in rem” foreclosure process — foreclosures that focus on vacant tax sale properties — using a new land bank for equitable distribution
- Ensure every property with metered water is receiving an accurate bill and develop a dispute resolution unit
- Support an appraisal gap tax credit focused on redlined communities
- Advocate for an equitable property tax assessment and assessment process
- Create a Baltimore neighborhood Reparations fund and Social Equity Bond
- Create participatory funding and payment processes for real estate development
- Create program to enable and support Black owned retail, commercial and industrial competent spaces
- Create an Independent Condemnations and Demolitions Monitor
- Publish a clear and concise set of procedures to apply for and receive city owned properties for equitable and sustainable development
- Create program to support Co-Housing, Collaborative Workspace and Cooperative development
- Create a Ground Rent Redemption grant and ground rent map
- Create and apply a measure to balance non profit property tax exemption against lost property tax revenues
- Fully implement state enabled waiver of estate administration fees for low income households
- Create a path to ownership for Adopt A Lot licensees (participants) who live in the footprint of the lots
- Reform the Side Lot program by streamlining the process and only applying the 10 year building restriction to owners not residing in community
- Implement a program to ensure all eligible homeowners are receiving all eligible property tax credits including but not limited too the Homeowner’s Tax Credit and Homestead Tax Credit
Creating racial equity will take fundamental change in the way the city government operates. We have to start with lessons from the past to build a doper future.
Nneka Nnamdi is the founder and chief operating officer of Fight Blight Bmore, an economic, environmental, and social justice initiative led by the community and informed by data to address the issue of blight
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