House Baltimore: Frequently Asked Questions
21-0172: Baltimore City Urban Homesteading Program
What is the Urban Homesteading Program?
This is a program that allows eligible Baltimore City residents to lease homes from the City for just $1 per year. Available homes are placed on a property registry. Within 6 months of leasing the property, program participants must begin necessary repairs, as well as make the property their principal residence. At the end of the 2-year lease term, ownership of the property will be transferred from the City to the program participant, provided that the participant met all lease requirements. This program thus creates an incredibly affordable pathway to homeownership for long-term City residents.
Baltimore City is the home of the country’s first racial zoning law. Redlining, the practice of denying Black neighborhoods access to private financial capital, historically displaced Black families in Baltimore and kept them from building generational wealth. A 2018 study found that the majority of neighborhoods that were redlined from 1935 to 1939 are low-to-moderate income today and continue to experience persistent economic inequality and persistent residential segregation. From 2007 to 2017, a troubling trend emerged: the homeownership rate in Baltimore City fell from 51% to 47%, and the Black homeownership rate sank to 42%. Approximately 10,000 Black families in Baltimore continue to be displaced every year due to foreclosures and rental evictions. This legislation is a long overdue solution to the persistent problem of housing inequity in Baltimore City.
Housing inequity is a public health issue. Stabilizing our communities will allow the city and the people who call Baltimore home to come out of COVID stronger. Homeownership creates stable families and strong neighborhoods, but the number of homeowners in Baltimore keeps falling. In the last decade, rates dropped in the city to a point that less than half of families who live in Baltimore own their home. It’s even lower for Black families — in a city that’s 60% Black. Foreclosures and evictions create even more turmoil. It is critical to address community building and homeowner retention in the wake of the COVID-19 economic crisis through the lens of housing equity.
What are the criteria for available homes?
Homes available for purchase may be placed on the property registry if the City owns the property and has the authority to sell it, the property is able to be repaired, the property is likely to be purchased by a prospective homeowner, and the property is in a designated neighborhood.
What is a Designated Impact Investment Neighborhood, and why are they important?
Designated Impact Investment Neighborhoods are strategically located near anchor institutions and emerging areas of momentum. To ensure the investment has a transformative impact, the legislation will require the houses be available in specific geographic areas that have been historically overlooked by investors and revitalization efforts. By limiting the time available to participate in the program and infusing designated communities, the investment can take root and the market can expand further.
Who is eligible for the Baltimore City Urban Homesteading Program?
An individual is eligible to participate in the program if the individual is 18 years or older, is a Legacy resident of Baltimore City, and has resided in a designated neighborhood for 10 continuous years. Eligible participants must be in compliance with any existing lease terms, and must be able to demonstrate an ability to afford the property they wish to acquire. Individuals that have been City employees for at least 5 years are also eligible. These eligibility requirements ensure that the program is accessible for the working poor, the middle class, small business owners, residents with student loan debt, seniors, and other groups for whom homeownership has not historically been a reality.
What if more than one resident applies for the same property?
This legislation prioritizes residents for whom homeownership has historically been the least accessible. Therefore, priority will be granted to first time homebuyers, those with a household income at or below 80% of the City’s average median income, and/or participants in the Federal Housing Choice Voucher program.
What is a Legacy Resident?
A Legacy Resident is an individual who has resided in Baltimore City for a period of 15 continuous years prior to June 30, 2022, or at least 15 years prior to moving out of the City due to a foreclosure. Legacy residents are the lifeblood of our City; they have raised their families in Baltimore communities and contributed to our City’s economy for years.
For how long will the program be in effect?
This is a pilot program that is set to end on November 30, 2024. This end date aligns with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding timeline.
How much will this program cost Baltimore taxpayers?
The program will be funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. This Federal funding was granted to help Baltimore respond to the COVID-19 crisis. There will not be an increase in taxes.
How can your voice be heard?
The City Council’s Committee of the Whole will hold its first House Baltimore hearing at 5 p.m. Dec. 20. Submit testimony by emailing Testimony@baltimorecity.gov or filling out this webform. You can watch the hearing online. Click here for the link.
Will the dollar house program benefit developers?
The bill spells out that the legislation is for Housing Choice voucher holders and legacy residents and city workers from disinvested communities. This bill is not for developers, investors or real estate speculators.
How would these programs work with existing programs?
These bills would create programs that would enhance existing resources, including Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors, or HUBS, and the LIFT program that provides down payment assistance. These proposed programs would not replace existing programs.
What protections would the dollar house program provide for legacy residents?
Legacy residents, city workers and Housing Choice voucher holders who qualify for the dollar house program would need to use a licensed contractor to renovate the house. Improvements would be funded by an approved financier under the terms of a prime loan that is at or below market interest rate. Other provisions of the bill require participants to complete a first-time homebuyer class by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and obtain warranties on the home renovations. Another bill in the House Baltimore package would provide grants up to $25,000 for home repairs, which helps cover the difference between how much it will cost to renovate the house and how much the house will appraise for.
How did the City Council President’s Office prepare the bill?
The Council President and his legislative affairs team spent more than nine months researching the bill. That includes analyzing programs operating elsewhere in the country, including those in Detroit and Philadelphia. The team studied federal proposals by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Raphael Warnock. The Council President's office also looked into Baltimore’s dollar house program from the 1970s and studied hearings in 2017 and 2019 that evaluated the possibility of reprising the program, poring through public testimony offered at that time.
Can American Rescue Plan Act funds be used for this program?
Yes, under the House America initiative by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, local leaders are encouraged to use historic investments from the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act and other federal, state and local resources to ensure families can find safe, stable and secure homes — whether they are experiencing homelessness, living in substandard housing or searching for an affordable home to buy.
21-0173: Baltimore City Home Repairs Grant Program
What is the Home Repairs Grant Program?
The Baltimore City Home Repairs Program offers grants of up to $25,000 to eligible homeowners. The Program will provide assistance for the following types of home repairs:
• Up to $25,000 for General Repairs,
• Up to $10,000 for Accessibility Repairs,
• Up to $10,000 for Mobile Home Repairs, and
• Up to $10,000 for Emergency Repairs.
Why does Baltimore City need a Home Repairs Program?
In a city with pockets of high poverty, many homeowners cannot afford to make costly and unexpected repairs to their properties. This legislation will mean more families can remain in their homes, living comfortably and safely.
What qualifies as an “accessibility repair”?
Accessibility repair is an improvement that allows a person with a disability to move about easier and can include building ramps, modifying spaces or widening doors.
What qualifies as an “emergency repair”?
Emergency repair is an improvement that must be made in a timely manner to remove immediate risk to the health and safety of the resident or their neighbors.
What qualifies as a “general repair”?
General repair is an improvement made for aesthetic or non-emergency reason.
Who is eligible for the Home Repairs Program?
A Baltimore City resident will be eligible for the Program if the resident is a Legacy Resident, has resided in a Designated Impact Investment Neighborhood for 10 continuous years, has a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, has an existing reverse mortgage on their home, or is a participant in the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. Homeowners will be prioritized based on income, with low- to moderate-income homeowners receiving repairs first. Repairs will also be prioritized if they make homes more energy efficient.
21-0174: Baltimore City Senior Homeowners Grant Program
What is a Reverse Mortgage?
A reverse mortgage is an agreement that homeowners enter to give up equity in their home in exchange for payments, typically to support them in retirement.
Why focus on reverse mortgages?
In the 2000s, Baltimore’s Black families were disproportionately targeted by subprime mortgage lenders and reverse mortgage lenders. A 2019 investigation found that reverse mortgages end in foreclosure six times more often in predominantly Black neighborhoods than in neighborhoods that are 80% white. These practices led to mass foreclosures during the 2000s and 2010s, resulting in Black families losing their homes at rates higher than white families.
What is the Reverse Mortgage Grant Program?
The Reverse Mortgage Grant Program protects Baltimore City’s senior residents from foreclosure by providing grants of up to $5,000 to make payments toward reverse mortgages.
Who is eligible for a grant?
Residents that are eligible for reverse mortgage grants must be at least 62 years old, never have been in default with their reverse mortgage, and hold the title to their home. The home must be the applicant’s principal residence and must not be an unsafe structure. Priority will be given to those residents with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income.
To learn more about the legislation, check out the bills: