By J. K. Schmid
Special to the AFRO
Mayor Brandon Scott plans to purchase hundreds of tax liens on Baltimore City homes.
The action, announced in a Sept. 23 press release from the Mayor’s office, makes 454 Baltimore homes and their homeowners eligible for relief from mounting tax burdens.
The plan is targeting owner-occupied residences, allowing what the city calls “legacy residents” to keep their homes and continue building generational wealth. Suburban Stats counts 64,000 Black owner-occupied homes in Baltimore City in 2019.
The city’s purchase of these liens voids the tax debt, unencumbered the property and the property owner. The city describes the process as offering Baltimore homeowners a “clean slate.”
“We know that tax sale currently does not operate in a way that is fair to our city’s low-income homeowners,” Mayor Scott said in the release. “I look forward to working closely with the Tax Sale Work Group to build a more equitable process, while also taking steps now to provide needed relief to our most vulnerable homeowners.”
The liens are being paid through the city’s general fund, while the aforementioned Tax Sale Work Group creates long-term reforms, the release said.
The work group is co-chaired by Daniel Ellis, Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore and Deputy City Administrator Daniel Ramos. It includes members from St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and Fight Blight Bmore.
Mayor Scott first announced the removal of all first-time owner-occupied tax sale liens from eligibility for tax sale back in May. Returning to the Mayor’s idea of “legacy,” keeping Black families in homes they own, stems the flow of Black Baltimoreans into renting, public housing, homelessness and all of the consequent hardships that follow with declining economic and property power.
These liens have always been particularly onerous for Baltimore’s working-poor homeowners, but the economic strain due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have made financial burdens only more acute, now and for the foreseeable future.
“I am excited that Mayor Scott and the Administration has [sic] dedicated so much time to ensure homeowners avoid this year’s tax sale. The efforts of advocates, volunteers and my office to help people get out of tax sale have been heroic,” Councilwoman Odette Ramos (District 14) said in May. “The next step is to get to every homeowner this year, and put through reforms of the entire system to repair administrative hurdles and eliminate this predatory tax sale system.”
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