Identifying the big vacant-property owners
We know there are thousands of vacant homes in Baltimore, 16,000 by some definitions and more by others. But who owns them -- besides the city -- is much less well-known.
Baltimore software developer Mike Subelsky decided to gather together public data to shed more light on the subject, and perhaps help the Baltimore Slumlord Watch blog find candidates to "feature." The list he compiled -- by scraping state and city websites for vacancy and ownership data -- includes the city (of course) as well as limited liability companies, landlords and nonprofits.
The datasets have limitations -- multiple LLCs obscuring both who owns and whether they own multiple homes, for instance -- but it's an interesting effort. Subelsky says it took a few weeks, mostly to clean up the results of the scraping.
He did a quick Q&A with me to explain the why and the what-next:
Q. What prompted you to invest the time?
A. It was one of several things proposed for my "free software project." I really care about the city and want to make it a nicer place for everyone to live and work, and I've always been involved in some type of public service, so I naturally gravitated to the idea of using my software skills for a public good.