Vacants to Value
January home sale figures meant I was in the office Thursday rather than at the city's Vacants to Value summit, but others went. More than 600, actually, which explains why city officials held the event at the Baltimore Convention Center.
St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center's blog has a piece from an attendee. Millie Hrdina gives a brief outline and says the workshop on using vacant homes for purposes other than housing was particularly interesting: "Not only do I feel it is potentially the easiest means to handling a large segment of Baltimore’s blight but quite possibly the cheaper of all the opportunities which exist to us as a community."
A Baltimore architect, Klaus Philipsen, muses on his own blog that Vacants to Value focuses "on disposition" -- getting city properties into private hands, for instance -- "and not so much on what happens afterwards." He suggests forming a "citywide rowhouse recovery agency" charged with getting 6,000 properties rehabbed, arguing that the started-then-stopped rehab projects by "naïve" newcomers "are as bad or worse than the original vacants."
What I have in mind are developer and contractor training programs and more systematic screening before awarding properties, also effective monitoring of ongoing work. ... At this point many players on each side enter this world blindly, and have great difficulty finding partners, understanding the rules, the funding options, the possible funding support programs and how to leverage their respective assets optimally.
Colleague Julie Scharper gave an update in a story last week about Vacants to Value sales through this site: "Housing officials now are marketing about 280 homes on a revamped website with detailed descriptions and photos, similar to sites managed by private real estate agents. Since it went live, the city has sold four homes from the site, at prices ranging from $5,500 to $25,000, officials said." (More homes have been sold by other means -- 57 all told since the overall effort was announced in November.)
Did you attend the summit? Have you looked into buying a city-owned property? Do share.