Outer Harbor Initiative

April 21, 2009

One of the factors that has contributed to the present state of affairs in our city’s blighted neighborhoods is the ineffectiveness of our code enforcement practices.

It is illegal to not pay your taxes, and it is a violation of code to allow your property’s roof, or front stairs, or back wall to collapse. These code violations draw fines from the city, if it has the manpower to inspect the property and confirm the violation. The 311 service is the biggest channel for citizens to report these violations, and it is widely used. 

However, if a property owner chooses not to pay the fines, or lets the back taxes accrue for a decade, the City doesn’t have much recourse for action. Property ownership is something of a sacred cow in these United States; you don’t mess with a property owner. However, that assumption is rooted in the fact that a property owner is part of the social fabric of a community. When property owners stop contributing to a community’s health, and start damaging it, the only tools available to the City are tax liens, code violations, and in extreme cases, eminent domain. 

It is apparent that these tools are insufficient to deal with the number of slumlords in the city. 

The Outer Harbor Initiative seeks to address that. Co-sponsored by Councilman William Cole and Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, OHI is legislation to upgrade the tools the City can use to deal with absentee landlords. This initiative dovetials beautifully with the dollar home concept:

Get properties out of slumlords’ hands + get properties into resident homeowners’ hands = Safer, cleaner, healthier Baltimore

Two days from now, Thursday, 4/23/2009 at 4pm, there will be a hearing at City Hall to discuss the initiative. If you agree with the goals of the program, call your City Councilperson, or come to the hearing.

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2 Responses to “Outer Harbor Initiative”

  1. Q Says:

    You fail to address a basic problem: there are many more houses in Baltimore than there are reputable occupants.

    You MUST first eliminate the overstock, otherwise any disqualifications simply export the problem people back into the neighborhoods.

  2. Steve Says:

    Hi Q,
    Thanks for the input!

    I disagree with your assessment of the overstock as a problem; I see it as an opportunity. The dollar house initiative will be a strong incentive for people to flock to Baltimore from other many areas. Boot-strapping is a fine American tradition that still has roots. Our aim is to re-populate the city.

    Also, I disagree with reputable being a criteria for anything. Reputation is what has put Baltimore in this position; if we are to change, we cannot rely upon the methods that have brought us to where we are.

    While we might not see eye-to-eye on this issue yet, I’m sure we can reach a common ground and move forward together. I encourage you to come out to the OHI hearing at City Hall today, Mayor Dixon’s meeting on 5/6 or email me directly: stephen.b.goodman |at| gmail.com


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