Mayor Scott, BUILD, & GBC Announce Landmark Agreement on Historic Plan to Invest $3 Billion in Baltimore’s Neighborhoods to Tackle Vacant Properties
Tuesday Dec 12th, 2023
Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, BUILD and the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) announced a landmark agreement to aggressively combat Baltimore City’s vacant and abandoned properties over the next 15 years. The agreement calls for strategic public investment to redevelop a minimum of 37,500 properties, with a clear plan to address as many as 45,000 properties.
The Scott administration pledged city investment of $300 million over 15 years to spark the project. That money – and other funding to be sought from the state of Maryland and private sector – will be used to generate as much as $3 billion to finance the redevelopment work over the course of effort.
“This historic partnership and the plan we’re putting forward is designed to fully address Baltimore’s vacant housing crisis for the first time in our city’s history,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “The era of piecemeal work and backwards-looking strategies is over. With this partnership and the plan we’ve designed together, Baltimore City finally has a roadmap for solving this crisis once and for all, utilizing both innovative funding streams and tried-and-true development strategies. For me, this work is personal. Vacant properties and the challenges they pose to neighborhoods have been a constant backdrop for my entire life. We now know the path forward, and with the City’s partnership with BUILD and GBC, we will use every tool at our disposal to get it done.”
The agreement commits to meeting key community development standards and values, including a commitment to leverage at least $2 in direct private investment for every $1 of public money spent.
An analysis by Public Financial Management, national experts in public financing tools, determined that the public investment required – a minimum of $3.0 billion over the next 15 years – would more than pay for itself over time by expanding the city’s and state’s tax base while generating significant new economic activity for the city and state.
“This is a landmark day for the city of Baltimore and its residents. For far too long, vacant and abandoned properties have plagued our neighborhoods, leading to increased violence and stripping wealth from residents," said BUILD Clergy Co-Chair Rev. George Hopkins. “BUILD, GBC, and Mayor Scott are proud to have a firm, working agreement that – when fully implemented – will end this crisis once and for all. It will take all of us, as well as many other partners, to do this, but BUILD is committed to seeing this work through."
For the last two years, BUILD has made addressing the city’s vacant and abandoned housing crisis citywide a top priority, building off the organization’s decades of work related to housing in different neighborhoods across the city. The new plan is the direct result of an agreement by the three parties in July 2023 to work together to address the crisis. The three entities came together to plan and hired consultants to support the work. This is the first time that BUILD, the GBC, and Baltimore’s Mayor have announced joint work since the creation of the College Bound Foundation 35 years ago.
"PFM's analysis demonstrates the long-term economic impact of prioritizing community revitalization and makes the case for the public and private investment needed to drive transformation in Baltimore's underserved neighborhoods. By partnering with the Mayor's Office, BUILD, and the many stakeholders who are deeply passionate about this issue, today marks progress toward the types of scalable solutions needed to address and combat long-standing complex challenges," said Greater Baltimore Committee President & CEO Mark Anthony Thomas. "The GBC is honored to be a part of this work and we've made a long-term commitment to the multi-year effort required to create the impact necessary to meaningfully address this important issue."
Baltimore has roughly 13,000 vacant and abandoned houses and structures, more than 20,000 vacant lots, and tens of thousands more homes that are affected because they are next to vacant and abandoned properties.
Vacant and abandoned homes directly impact the safety, health, and wealth of families. The same neighborhoods most impacted by the vacancy crisis have also been historically impacted by racially discriminatory housing policies and redlining practices in Baltimore.
Mayor Scott’s administration has already taken major steps to address Baltimore’s vacant and abandoned property crisis, a problem that has plagued the city for decades. Due to those efforts, the number of vacant properties in Baltimore is now the lowest it has been in decades.
The new plan seeks to leverage the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) existing slate of tools to expand ongoing redevelopment work, but will also introduce two new funding sources.
Under the new plan, the City of Baltimore will implement two novel strategies to facilitate the $300 million commitment: non-contiguous tax increment financing bonds (TIF) and reinstating the city’s Industrial Development Authority, which has not been utilized in more than 40 years. Notably, the TIFs, which have historically been primarily utilized in Baltimore to generate development of waterfront neighborhoods and large-scale downtown commercial projects, will now to be applied to the redevelopment of vacant properties in historically disinvested-in neighborhoods.
Additionally, the partnership will seek to obtain additional state housing funds, work to obtain a new public revenue stream – such as a share of state sales tax receipts – and secure new private and philanthropic investments.
The new plan sets key goals, including: “community-led development without displacement, building equity, and addressing the wealth gap through homeownership” – which will help create thriving mixed-income neighborhoods and housing that is safe and affordable. The plan also calls for a “whole-block” approach that invests in an entire neighborhood, with a focus on building on existing neighborhood assets.
In order to ensure the longevity and consistency for this long-term project over the course of 15 years, the parties will seek to utilize an existing “special purpose entity,” such as the Maryland Stadium Authority or Maryland Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO), to help facilitate some of the funding streams and ensure the agreement is maintained.