Mayor Scott Orders Citywide Review of Baltimore’s Vacant Lands – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday ordered a citywide review of all vacant housing operations, procedures and processes to meet A building collapse on a vacant lot last week killed three Baltimore firefighters.

Under Scott’s direction, all city agencies and departments have 30 days to provide detailed reports on all the efforts they are making to reduce the number of vacant buildings across the country. city. Their findings will be made available to City Administrator Chris Shorter, who is leading the review.

The mayor also ordered city departments and divisions to brainstorm and come up with ideas on how they could reduce the number of properties and vacant homes.

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“This is one of the most consequential commitments in my administration,” Scott said on Monday. “There is too much risk not to leave a proposal. This is a top priority and is directly related to two of the priority pillars of our action plan, both developing equitable neighborhoods and ensuring clean and healthy communities. ”

The announcement comes a week after three firefighters — Lt. Paul Butrim, Lieutenant Kelsey Sadler and Firefighter Kenny Lacayo — died after being trapped in a collapsed building while fighting a fire at an empty house. John McMaster, the fourth firefighter injured in a similar collapse, has been released from the hospital.

“This is about delivering on our commitment,” the mayor said. “Anything less than our best efforts in resolving the issue would be a discredit to the lives of the brave firefighters we lost last week and the residents that we serve every day, who have been dealing with this problem for more than three decades. ”

As of Friday, there were 15,032 vacant homes across Baltimore, 13,560 of which are privately owned, according to figures provided by the city. About a third of those properties are in the process of being converted, either through renovation, private development, or preparing for demolition or sale.

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Among the tools the city is exploring is admission rights, or the process by which the city can take control of property from owners who break the law.

The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development is tracking records of nearly 500 people taking home this year, according to figures provided by the city.

Through the directive, Mayor Scott’s goal is to dramatically increase that number.

“We will use the results of this 30-day assessment to develop an ambitious and comprehensive set of goals to reduce vacancies through addressing existing vacancies and to prevent potential vacancies. Additional vacancies will build on existing efforts to prevent the property from turning back. the mayor said.

As part of the effort, Scott said the city will use the federal portion of American Rescue Plan Act funding to help address vacant housing and dying real estate in underserved communities. the city’s most served.

Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy said vacancy was a problem stemming from a massive population drop, from one of the most populous cities decades ago to 600,000.

The commissioner said the city has spent decades working to hold owners of derelict properties accountable through a range of measures, including law enforcement, sentencing, forfeiture. produce and receive.

“We have already begun to unlock potential in many neighborhoods, and we are on the verge of having the lowest number of vacant properties in the city in decades,” Kennedy said. “But what happened last week in a privately owned and vacant building in our city will never happen.”

WJZ asked city officials Monday about red signs with white Xs placed on buildings that were vacant years ago to notify first responders about unoccupied buildings. live. That is now done more electronically, via dispatch, the Ford chief said. “Leave them exposed to as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions when they arrive at the scene.”

“(The red signs with a white X) is one of the items that Director Ford and I discussed recently this morning,” Kennedy said.

Sheriff Ford said BCFD is working with fire officials in New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia and St. Louis to update the department’s best practices for fighting fires in empty buildings.

Kennedy said her office will work directly with the Baltimore City Fire Department in the coming weeks to identify policy changes and other ideas to present to Shorter as part of the mayor’s directive. .

Mayor Scott said “keep a close eye” on how much money the American Rescue Act will be allotted to address the vacant building problem.

https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2022/01/31/mayor-scott-orders-review-of-baltimores-vacant-housing-challenges-city-departments-to-tackle-problem/ Mayor Scott Orders Citywide Review of Baltimore’s Vacant Lands – CBS Baltimore

Tom Vazquez

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