Eric Costello was appointed to the City Council after Bill Cole left to head BDC, and is now the incumbent. He was the first to respond to the housing questionnaire, and his responses appear below, with no edits:
1. Baltimore City has 30,000+ vacant homes. How do you intend to clean up blight in your district that isn’t a rehash or continuation of previous plans? And how do you propose to pay for your plan?
I will continue to find ways to support Michael Braverman and Julie Day in strategically disposing of City properties, using code enforcement and receivership as primary tools to fight blight, and exploring additional tax credits to incentivize rehabilitation of older historic properties.
2. The two fastest-growing income groups in Baltimore are those who earn $75,000 and up, and those who earn $25,000 and below. The middle class in Baltimore is stagnating, and struggling to afford rental housing. How do you propose to keep median-income renters from leaving the city without pushing them into homeownership they may not want or be able to afford?
I agree that we need affordable housing for all income levels and will continue to push for affordable units in every new project in my district. While we continue to see an increase in available rental units, I agree that we need more projects like we’ve seen on the west side of downtown that create true mixed income opportunities.
3. Our Housing Authority has a decades-long reputation for corruption and incompetence at its top leadership tier. How do you plan to address this?
I have found that Michael Braverman and Julie Day are two of the most responsive, responsible and creative employees in City government. They happen to be part of the key senior leadership in housing. I know where you are going with this question and know that you have strong personal feelings about Commissioner Graziano. The next Mayor will address that and I only hope that the bright spots in housing continue to remain in place.
4. It’s been said that Baltimore’s tax sale process is burdensome to seniors and low-income residents, forcing many out of their homes. How do you plan to make this process easier for those who are struggling to pay for their water bills and property taxes, and how would you better structure the city’s tax sale process to ensure homes aren’t purchased and subsequently neglected?
What has struck me since joining the Council is that many residents aren’t aware of the resources that exist to ease property tax burdens or to help with water bills if income limited. I will continue focusing on the seniors in my district with a dedicated staff person to disseminate information on these important home-saving resources.
5. If you plan to introduce a reduction in property taxes, please indicate that, but also indicate how you plan to make up for the lost revenue.
I support the gradual reduction in property taxes that is already in place. Dramatic reductions in property taxes would leave the city without adequate resources to provide core services like fire, police and education. We need to grow the city while gradually and carefully reducing the rate.
6. How do you propose enforcing Baltimore City’s inclusionary housing law?
The inclusionary housing law lacks one major component: a dedicated funding stream.
7. Is there anything else voters should know about your approach to housing in District 11?
The 11th district is either the fastest or second fastest growing district in the City – along with the 1st. It has many vibrant neighborhoods and several that need additional investment. I will continue to fight for those neighborhoods in every possible way as those neighborhoods often provide the most direct access to affordable housing.