By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD) recently gathered to support SB 855, a bill that permits Baltimore city to acquire more vacant properties through in-rem foreclosure.”
SB 855 has passed the Senate and will be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 28.
“We are here today to support the expansion of in rem foreclosure which will help Baltimore City acquire more vacant properties and transfer them to developers who can then redevelop them,” said Elizabeth Riechelt, co-chair of BUILD.
In rem foreclosure, as explained by the Department of Housing and Community Development, is the process of the City confiscating a vacant lot or building if the municipal liens exceed the property’s assessed value.
“For a vacant property—only vacant properties—when the lien exceeds the assessed value of the property then the City can foreclose immediately,” said Councilwoman Odette Ramos (D-14) to the AFRO. “The previous acquisition pieces were what was called tax sales foreclosure which means they had to wait until the property went through tax sales a couple of times then they could go to the court and foreclose which would take two to three years.”
Ramos testified in support of the bill.
Liens are unpaid environmental citations, property taxes, water bills and other accumulated fines.
If the lien on the vacant property is below the assessed value of the property, then City has to pay the old owner the difference between the amount of the liens and the value of the property to fully foreclose on it.
“Either way it’s just a way to get more properties in a quicker fashion,” said Ramos.
Ramos said that property descendants would be notified, but if they refused to respond or take action to re-acquire the vacant property then the City would be able to take possession of the property.
The Rev. Cristina Paglinauan, a member of the executive and strategy teams of BUILD, also provided testimony on Senate bill 769.
“This legislative tool will accelerate the process of taking control of whole blocks,” said Paglinauan.
“Our plan at BUILD is to ensure there is no displacement, there is mixed-income, there is right-sizing (ensuring the number of homes built in a community is equivalent to the size of the neighborhood) and to make sure we make redevelopment decisions through a community driven lens,” she added.
BUILD is an interfaith community organization that’s been around for more than 40 years advocating for better housing, jobs and neighborhoods in Baltimore.
Their current “BUILD One Baltimore Now” campaign centers around reclaiming vacant homes, restoring wealth and communities and reducing violence.
Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.
This article originally stated that BUILD is advocating for SB 769. It has been corrected to reflect that BUILD is supporting SB 855.