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Baltimore Marking More Than 15K Vacant Properties With QR Code To Help Community Identify Owners

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore City Housing inspectors are placing "VACANT PROPERTY" notices on the city's more than 15,000 vacant buildings.

"Vacants (are) a cancer in our city," Department of Housing and Community Development Deputy Commissioner Eric Booker said. "In a sense, it is a little bit of shaming. Some of the feedback we have, in fact, gotten has been, 'Why are you all posting my house?'"

The notices are the result of a bill passed by city council last year, requiring housing officials to post the signs.

"This won't stop the vacant problem in Baltimore, but I think it's a step in the right direction," District 8 Councilman Kristerfer Burnett said. "Every house has a story. We wanted to be able to pull back that veil and tell that story."

The signs have the phone number and website where neighbors can see the contact information for the building's owner. It features a QR code, which directs people to DHCD's Vacant Property Resources page.

"Part of it is making them feel what the community is feeling because they have abandoned their vacant property," Booker said.

Maritza Serrano owns an East Baltimore vacant property with a notice on its door. She lives next door and is rehabbing the property before an inspection next week.

"Baltimore has a lot of houses vacant and we said, 'We can do something,'" Serrano said. "We need to know. Who's the owner and what happened with the houses?"

When inspectors place the signs, they also re-inspect the property.

"They don't want the neighborhood to know that their property has a vacant building notice on it," inspector Derrell Edmond said. So, we'll get certain owners that'll say, 'Hey, don't put this on my property.'"

Inspectors have placed about 1,000 notices thus far and are expected to finish posting notices in the next couple months, per housing officials. Baltimore City owns about 10 percent of the city's vacant buildings.

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