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New Funding Empowers Female Developers, Targets Vacant Houses In West Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A new pot of funding has been made available to minority female developers in Baltimore so that they can more easily access properties in West Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced on Wednesday that JPMorgan Chase had made a $20 million commitment to Black and Hispanic developers.

The bank awarded the money to Prioritizing Our Women's Economic Rise, a collaborative led by the Latino Economic Development Center in partnership with the City of Baltimore and University of Maryland, among other organizations, in the hopes of removing some of the barriers that keep female developers from accessing properties in underdeveloped communities in West Baltimore.

The funding is part of a broader $75 million, five-year commitment from JPMorgan Chase to the Greater Washington region. It aims to provide Black and Hispanic female developers with access to flexible capital—including grants—to close the appraisal gap on vacant houses in West Baltimore neighborhoods.

"This critical investment ties directly into our shared vision for equitable, community-based development and economic growth across Baltimore City," Scott said Wednesday. "We can't emerge as a stronger community if we don't invest in the economic well-being of Black and Latina women."

Deputy Mayor Faith Leach noted that the money allows Baltimore to develop wealth-building pathways that will empower minority female developers. These pathways will be across three main accelerators: small business development, skills training, and affordable real estate development/homeownership, Leach said.

"By providing training in these key areas, direct support to grow women entrepreneurs, and by supporting a specific sector of high impact women entrepreneurs—affordable housing developers—we can create a continuum of wealth creation for Black and Latinx women and contribute to a safe, healthy, and thriving communities in West Baltimore and across the City," she said.

In addition to making a new pot of money available to minority women, JPMorgan awarded $2 million to Parity Homes to create 200 new homeownership opportunities for low-income households and a construction apprenticeship program, Scott's office said. This initiative aims to grow the number of community-centric development models and increase the demand for homeownership opportunities in neighborhoods with a large number of vacant houses.

The funding announcement comes two days after firefighters Lt. Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo were killed while battling a fire at a vacant house in Southwest Baltimore on Monday. Part of the house collapsed, killing three firefighters and injuring a fourth firefighter, John McMaster.

City fire investigators and members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating the cause of the fire.

There are more than 15,000 vacant buildings in Baltimore. Baltimore City Housing inspectors began placing "VACANT PROPERTY" notices on some of those buildings in 2021.

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