Action Needed: Urge Your State Legislators to Support SB0197

Blighted vacant homes in Baltimore

Blighted vacant homes in Baltimore

Bill Information: This bill would authorize a municipality to establish a Vacant and Blighted Buildings Registry and to require an owner of a vacant building to register it within 30 days after the building becomes vacant under specified circumstances. It would also require a municipality to consider specified factors in determining whether a building is a vacant building or a blighted vacant building, and would allow the municipality to set special tax rates for vacant buildings and blighted vacant buildings. You can download the text for SB0197 here.

Why This Bill is Important: One of the biggest obstacles to fighting blight is the ability of a municipal government to get a handle on how many vacant buildings and blighted vacant buildings are located within the municipality. This would go a long way towards alleviating that problem, and the special tax rates would help the municipality to recoup maintenance costs, along with the cost of added police and fire services.

Special Note: Baltimore City tried to enact a similar bill, but the Mayor urged the Baltimore delegation to kill it. Unfortunately, Baltimore City isn’t the only municipality in Maryland that has a vacant building problem. Some of our communities in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore are dealing with the same, and should be allowed to deal with this problem via a registry and additional taxes on negligent property owners.

What You Can Do Now: No matter where you are in Maryland, contact your legislators, and ask them to support this bill.

3 thoughts on “Action Needed: Urge Your State Legislators to Support SB0197

  • We need this tool to keep irresponsible owners from causing damage to hour homes and blighting our blocks with vacant buildings. Frozen pipes, vagrants, vermin infestations – all lead to damage to the homes of those who are literally wall to wall – AND POWERLESS TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Those who have vacant buildings and are responsible keep their properties looking lived in. Government NEEDS THIS TOOL to force those who are neglecting their property to act.

  • Why on earth would the owner of an abandoned property register it? It’s abandoned! Plus, we already have a property registry, the tax rolls. What the heck does Occupied continuously mean? What If I go to Florida for 4 months, I have to get permission from City Hall?

    Plus, all this does is authorize City Council to pass a bill that they could do anyway, which the mayor could still kill.

    This bill is another non-solution to the vacant housing problem. If you are going to tax vacant houses, the city should just go all-in and should just use its existing eminent domain powers.

    Vacant houses will disappear when its valuable to redevelop them, which either means the city needs to make it easier and cheaper to redevelop, or it needs to take steps to boost demand (e.g. a stronger charter school law, , stop harassing people about street parking, and zoning). There are no laws that can circumvent the basic economics of supply and demand.

    • The idea is to give the City more leverage when fining a property owner for neglecting a property, and tightening up what constitutes a vacant property, which has a very specific meaning in most municipalities.

      And “continuously occupied” is pretty simple to understand — someone either lives there, or nobody lives there. Not sure what other explanation is necessary.

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