BALTIMORE -- Housing officials and a Baltimore City Council member are describing a new tool to address vacant and abandoned properties as a "game-changer."
Judicial In Rem Foreclosure allows the city's Housing department to foreclose on properties where the value of liens exceeds the assessed value.
"Yes, we will be acquiring more properties, but we can continue this work on a block-by-block basis," Councilwoman Odette Ramos, D-District 14, said in an informational hearing on Sept. 20.
As of October 5, Baltimore City reports 14,614 vacant properties on its rolls. Of that, less than 1,200 are owned by Baltimore City.
"The city can only dispose of those 1,200 properties. And, the rest of these properties are in limbo-land," Ramos said.
Ramos points to the vacant rowhome on Stricker Street in Southwest Baltimore that caught fire in January and killed three Baltimore City firefighters.
As WJZ previously reported, the home had tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and liens.
"It's a bit overwhelming, so we're trying to prioritize as best we can," Baltimore City Housing attorney Joe Kirchner said Sept. 20.
The city is taking the first set of eight cases to court Nov. 30, Kirchner said.
Housing officials have identified 400 cases that qualify for Judicial In Rem Foreclosure and another 1,000 in the pipeline to review, according to Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy.
Judicial In Rem will allow for the city to foreclose on properties in nine months or less, compared to tax sale foreclosure, which can take more than two years, Kennedy said.
"A lot of times, if you're looking at a vacant lot, you just see a vacant lot," Kennedy said, pointing out the process could work well with lots, as well. "And then, have the ability to do site assembly and put those back into productive use as well."
To learn more about Judicial In Rem Foreclosure, click here. https://dhcd.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/Judicial%20In%20Rem%20Fact%20Sheet%20(final).pdf
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