Sweeping legislation would responsibly grow Baltimore by bringing back dollar houses for legacy residents and city workers, helping residents stay in their homes
BALTIMORE, MD (Monday, Nov. 15, 2021) — City Council President Nick J. Mosby wants to bring back dollar houses for Baltimore’s legacy residents as the cornerstone of a sweeping legislative package that would allow city workers who live in disinvested communities to buy in Baltimore and convert Housing Choice voucher recipients into homeowners. Other parts of the “House Baltimore” legislative package would provide up to $25,000 to pay for home repairs and extend $5,000 grants to seniors facing foreclosure due to predatory reverse mortgages.
Along with co-sponsors and the backing of the Council’s chairpersons, Council President Mosby will introduce legislation at Monday’s meeting designed to grow Baltimore responsibly.
The legislation is carefully designed to reduce the city’s racial wealth gap, close the gulf between rates of white and Black homeownership and reverse the city’s population decline as revealed in the recent U.S. Census. It is also intended to help residents buy a house they can afford, stay in that home and use the property to ultimately create generational assets for their family.
The “House Baltimore” legislative package is arguably the City Council’s most substantial in modern history. It reimagines the Council’s role in addressing systemic issues with far-reaching legislative policy solutions.
The package will be referred to the “Committee of the Whole” chaired by Council President Mosby, a move that signifies the magnitude of the legislation and the potential it brings to transform the city. Engaging the entire Council also will ensure all members have an opportunity to weigh in on the legislative package and help shape its outcome. It is important to have an all-hands-on-deck approach. The committee’s first hearing will be announced at Monday’s meeting.
While the Council cannot yet allocate money, Council President Mosby calls on Mayor Brandon M. Scott to invest $200 million from the American Rescue Plan Act on the responsible revitalization of disinvested neighborhoods. The introduction of the bills follows the Council’s unanimous adoption of the “House America” pledge to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure families can find safe, stable and secure homes — including people experiencing homelessness, as well as those at risk and facing unstable housing situations.
“For so many working class Baltimoreans, the American Dream has been a myth at best, and in reality for many, it has been a nightmare,” Council President Mosby said. “Our focus with this legislation is people who have lived for much of their life in Baltimore, our legacy residents and city workers who have been holding up our neighborhoods in the face of disproportional disinvestment, and the resulting crime and grime and, ultimately, blight.
“The communities that will benefit are the very ones hurt by redlining and modern-day subprime loans, the ones ignored for decades while the city steered money and good fortune away from East and West Baltimore. The communities we want to target are the exact same places where the census shows we’ve suffered so much of our population loss.”
The legislation was drafted over more than nine months by Council President Mosby with input from economic policy advisers, affordable housing experts and community builders. It draws on best practices from across the country.
Besides the opportunity to create generational wealth, buying an affordable home will also save many city renters hundreds of dollars a month. Nearly half of the renters in Baltimore pay more than a third of their income on housing. In the Edmondson Village area, for instance, the median home is about $112,000 with an estimated mortgage payment of $675, including escrow for property taxes. Rent in this area typically costs roughly $1,355.
The “House Baltimore” package comes in multiple parts.
- A urban homesteading program for legacy residents, city workers and Housing Choice voucher recipients would provide homes for $1 from the city’s stock of vacants. Recipients would be given grants up to $10,000 toward down payments and closing costs. Lead sponsor Council President Mosby; cosponsors include all of the Council’s committee chairs.
- While legacy residents are prioritized for the program based on income, incentives would also be available for others to become homeowners in target neighborhoods, including entrepreneurs and people with college loan debt.
- A home repairs program would provide grants worth up to $25,000 to help our residents in disinvested communities, regardless of age, stay in their homes when facing emergencies, costly repairs and necessary accessibility upgrades. Lead sponsor Council John T. Bullock; cosponsors include all of the Council’s committee chairs.
- Grants up to $5,000 would be provided citywide to seniors facing foreclosure due to reverse mortgages. Lead sponsor Council President Vice President Sharon Green Middleton; cosponsors include all of the Council’s committee chairs.
A second phase of the “House Baltimore” legislation is forthcoming and will include local rent subsidies and adjustments to the city’s inclusionary housing law to require deeply affordable housing units be added to the development pipeline. A former state delegate, Council President Mosby also expects to collaborate with partners in the General Assembly to expand city tax credits, so the city can offer entrepreneurs and people with college loan debt and others incentives to close the appraisal gap so they can buy homes and storefronts in Baltimore.
Follow updates on the legislative package using #HouseBaltimore on social media.
Deputy Director of Communications
Office of City Council President Nick J. Mosby