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The Dripby Ian Round9:46 amMay 11, 20200

Bill to reform tax sale of vacant houses to be introduced in City Council

Also: a burst of resolutions from a normally somnolent councilman

Above: The 1100 block of North Collington Avenue is lined with the shells of vacant rowhouses. (Mark Reutter)

A bill aimed at giving city government more control over vacant houses and reshaping a “predatory” tax sale system will come before the City Council tonight.

Bill 20-0529, which Council President Brandon Scott will introduce on behalf of Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, establishes in rem foreclosure, which would keep certain homes from going to tax sale and allow the city to seize others with a court order.

A task force formed by the state found that the tax sale system works against itself by allowing homes to stand vacant for years and causing undue burden on poor homeowners.

“Instead of returning homes to the tax rolls, today’s predatory system has left thousands of homes abandoned, driving struggling neighborhoods into decay,” a 2017 report by the task force says. “Residents are paying much more to keep their homes.”

In the absence of a bidder at the tax sale, the city would be able to assume control of the property for redevelopment.

Last month, Young delayed Baltimore’s annual tax sale until July 20.

Legislation passed at the state level last year allowed local jurisdictions to enact in rem foreclosure and prohibited foreclosure on homes in Baltimore due to unpaid water bills.

Busy Night

Councilman Robert Stokes Sr. (12th), who rarely introduces legislation but is currently embroiled in a tough June 2 primary, will introduce five resolutions tonight.

Two of them call for information from city officials on how public housing and city-owned buildings are being cleaned during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two other resolutions recognize teachers and nurses, while the last is “for the purpose of recognizing systemic racism as a public health crisis.”

Also Happening

Scott will introduce, on behalf of the Board of Estimates he chairs, the administration’s projected budget for fiscal 2021.

Last week, Finance Director Henry Raymond announced the city could lose about $170 million between this year and next, and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot projected the state would lose 15% of its revenue for fiscal 2021.

Scott also will introduce the annual property tax, which will remain at the present rate of $2.248 per $100 of assessed value.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th) is sponsoring a resolution asking the city, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters to “get the word out” about the June 2 primary elections.

The deadline to register to vote is May 27. Most voters will do so by mail. Ballots will be coming to registered voters in the mail soon.

More Information

• Watch tonight’s meeting at 5 p.m. on CharmTV.

• Tonight’s agenda.

• The 2017 report from the state task force studying the tax sale system.

• An advocate for homeowners facing foreclosure: State Tax Sale Ombudsman.

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