By Ryan Velez
Baltimore is willing to look outside the box regarding revitalizing its distressed neighborhoods, and Black Enterprise reports that council members and advocates are pushing for a government program to help, that would allow it to sell thousands of vacant buildings for $1 each.
Of course, a house for $1 comes with a catch. The main provision here is that buyers would have to promise to refurbish and live in the properties for a certain period of time. According to a bill adopted by the Baltimore City Council, the program would revitalize “marginal neighborhoods by matching construction ability at the grass roots of Baltimore to production of affordable housing for workers’ families and neighbors.” This has actually been done before, with the 1973 “Dollar House” program. It helped revitalize ravaged neighborhoods in the city throughout the 1980s. There is some concern regarding its success here, like the fact that there may not be enough government funding to address all these homes, which are over triple what there was in the 80s.
Real estate agent and affordable housing specialist Mable Ivory applauded the idea, referencing the success of similar programs in Detroit and Harlem. “It has been proven that when home ownership increased among residents in neighborhoods like Harlem and Detroit, which were once plagued by urban blight and flight, crime declined and the communities became more beautiful as owners took pride in their neighborhoods and took better care of them,” she said in an email. “Baltimore seeks to mirror the success that has been experienced in Harlem and Detroit by creating a similar, discount home ownership program.”
If the idea sounds appealing to you, she recommends that purchasers “do their due diligence and research” before taking on the cost of home ownership. “If possible, before bidding on the properties, homeowners should do a property inspection with licensed professionals, such as contractors, architects, and engineers, to have a clear and full understanding of all the repairs needed to make the home inhabitable; the cost of the repairs; as well as the time it will take to complete the entire renovation. The good news is that there are mortgage loan programs available like the FHA 203(k) mortgage loan program, which provide financing for the total renovation of a home.”