Baltimore City continues to struggle with vacant home problem – CBS Baltimore

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s newly sworn housing commissioner, Alice Kennedy, said a vacant house at the center of a deadly fire and a federal investigation were a sign of a bigger problem in the city.

The vacant home on the 200 block of South Stricker Street was the scene of a fire Monday in which firefighters Lt. Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo were killed and firefighter John McMaster was injured. It’s one of more than 15,000 vacant homes in Baltimore.

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This home is privately owned — as are more than 90% of Baltimore’s vacant homes. Unfortunately, there are many financial and legal obstacles that stand in the way of reducing the number of these homes.

Kennedy said she understands the urgency of addressing this issue.

“We’ve been through bankruptcy administrations,” she said. “We’ve been through foreclosures from tax sales. We’ve been through moves. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to this block.”

Part of that work — converting vacant homes into livable homes — was highlighted Wednesday morning with the announcement of a $20 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase to invest in redeveloping West Baltimore.

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“These spaces are sacred,” said Bree Jones, CEO of Parity Homes. “You are valuable. And they are worth redeeming.”

Parity Homes raises $2 million with goal to create 200 Black and Hispanic homeowners in West Baltimore.

“Despite their boarded-up windows and broken panes of glass . . . These neighborhoods are intrinsically valuable, even when bank reports say these homes are worth less than the cost to build them,” Jones said.

Mayor Brandon Scott said Wednesday that resources are needed to hold property owners accountable.

“We need to figure out how to move these things through the system and the court system faster and how we can hold these owners of these properties more accountable,” Scott said.

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WJZ learned Wednesday that four 311 inquiries were made over the past year about the condition of the home on South Stricker Street where three firefighters were killed. Three of those requests came from city officials concerned about sanitation, rats and tall grass.

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