"A Nostalgic Fantasy": Baltimore's $1 Houses Explained (2023)

Last week, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, who is he?fund raisingto defend himself in a federal investigation, he unveiled a dollar housing program that his office says will revitalize the city and narrow its racial inequality. The legislation allows certain Baltimore residents to rent an empty home for as little as $1 for two years while they make necessary repairs. Once the previously vacant home is habitable, title will pass to the $1 tenant.

The need for cheaper housing is evident in Baltimore. City dwellers have long been excluded from the wealth-building opportunities that home ownership offers, and Baltimore's average selling prices almost did.duplicatesince January 2020.

[Property advocates and even some investors] say the Mosby legislation duplicates existing guidelines, warning that, if past attempts at this program are any indication, the program would overwhelmingly benefit the rich and real estate developers.

"In addition to creating generational wealth, purchasing an affordable home will also save hundreds of dollars a month for many city renters," according to a press release from the Council President's office. "Nearly half of Baltimore's renters spend more than a third of their income on housing."

Many real estate attorneys and even some investors are suspicious. They say the Mosby legislation is a ripoff of pre-existing policies and caution that, if past attempts at this program are any indication, the program would hugely benefit the wealthy and property developers. Housing Our Neighbors, a grassroots organization that campaigns for affordable housing and the rights of people affected by housing insecurity and evictions in Baltimore, called Mosby's Dollar Homes program a "PR stunt."

"Dollar homes require resources and time, things that many of us simply don't have", Housing Our Neighborstweetedlast week. “This isn't really about fairness, it's a PR effort by @Nick_Mosby giving grants to people who can flip a house while some of us are still in tents and shelters. But go on.

It is not enough

Dollar Home's proposal is targeting formerly fenced neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore. For long-time residents and first-time homebuyers in the city, dollar homes are part of a larger suite of bills that charge home ownership for up to $25,000 for general repairs, $10,000 for emergency repairs, and $10,000 for emergency repairs. $5,000 for Senior Pre-Foreclosure Allowance.

Marc Rollins, a Baltimore-based real estate investor who has been servicing vacant properties for the last three years, sharedbaltimore battlefieldthat the Mosby numbers just don't add up to enough support.

“$25,000, depending on the property you're buying, is not enough,” Rollins said.baltimore battlefield. “Most of these houses need new flooring, they probably still have lead paint. You have to rip out the whole house and put it back together. The overall project can cost at least $60,000 to $100,000."

The proposed dollar housing legislation will require applicants to secure financing for repairs, but does not specify how low-income families, many of whom through no fault of their own have bad credit or poor credit, will obtain the necessary additional equity.

According to an FAQ posted on the boardsite web, repairs and improvements "would be financed by an approved lender under a principal loan at or below the market rate of interest". He does not offer further details. Three contractors with extensive experience rebuilding vacant lots in Baltimore sharedbaltimore battlefieldthat the cost can range from $100,000 to $250,000.

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Rollins added that many of Baltimore's homes that would require less work have already been purchased by developers or contractors with the funds to buy.

"You might find a gem here or there," Rollins said.baltimore battlefield. "But they almost disappeared."

"Nostalgic Fantasy"

Mosby's Dollar Homes program cites the previous iteration of Baltimore's Dollar Homes program, which had been in existence for over 40 years.

When former councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke proposed bringing back the Dollar Homes program in 2017, her real impact wasrechecked. In reality,less than 200 housesthey were sold through the previous dollar housing program, primarily to benefit white homebuyers. The previous program also focused on the downtown neighborhoods of Federal Hill and Otterbein, giving buyers immediate access to capital. The housing stock was in much better condition than it is today.

The current iteration of Mosby's proposed program will likely lead to higher home improvement costs. This is because the program focuses on areas that were previously marked in red and are already significant.devalued. As a result, homebuyers are at risk of losing their mortgage, meaning they are putting more money into renovating their home than it was worth when it was appraised. This can leave them tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Parity Homes, a black-owned developer that converts homes into affordable housing, estimates that the valuation gap has closed in West Baltimore's Harlem Park neighborhood.average $70,000.

That year, Maryland passed legislation passed by Senator Antonio Hayes and Del. Brook Lierman and established a fund with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to close the assessment gap in low-income gated neighborhoods and census tracts across the state.

"If this bill gets full funding from the department and the governor, it could be extremely helpful in renovating vacant housing," said Brook Lierman, who is running for state comptroller.baltimore battlefield.

"It seems to be trying to find a simple solution to a complex problem, based on nostalgic fantasy and generating headlines and catchphrases, rather than true transformation."

Ian Bukowski, former project manager for Habitat for Humanity of Chesapeake

The program has yet to be funded, and it's unclear when the pilot program will begin: "I'd like to see a minimum initial funding of $15 million for this program," Lierman said.

Other cities experimented with dollar housing, often with less-than-stellar results.

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One program that the Office of the Chairman of the Board has reviewed is that of Philadelphia. According to a 2020Philadelphia investigators To analyzeOf the 2,314 homes sold through the municipal program since 2000, more than half are empty. A third was resold, raising millions for real estate developers. Meanwhile, nearly 400 Philadelphia buyers had back taxes and debts owed to the city.over $867,000.

AInvestigationVonThe Kansas City LighthouseIn Kansas City's initiative to sell city real estate for as little as a dollar, the program was found to be riddled with "potential conflicts of interest between board members and buyers and a failure to hold buyers accountable for their own needs." Hefarofound that "as a result, a citywide neighborhood revitalization program leaves dozens of lots vacant for years."

Ian Bukowski, a former project manager for Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity who has worked to build affordable housing in Baltimore for more than a decade, has questioned the effectiveness of the Dollar Homes program.

“It feels like an attempt at a simple solution to a complex problem that relies on nostalgic fantasy and generates headlines and catchphrases rather than true transformation,” Bukowski said.

"Big repairs'

The council president's office said it had spoken with "economic policy advisers, affordable housing experts and community builders" about the dollar housing program. A prominent housing advocate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his organization has not made a formal statement about the Mosby legislation, said neither he nor the advocates he spoke to had been consulted about the program. He noted that the city is making a number of efforts to create affordable housing that includes comprehensive services and other supports that studies show are critical to successful home ownership.

Mosby's director of communications Yvonne Wenger did not provide any information.baltimore battlefieldwith names of specific people they spoke to and referred us to themfrequently asked questions, which also does not provide a list. The FAQ states: "The team reviewed federal proposals from U.S. Representative Maxine Waters and U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Raphael Warnock. The Office of the Chairman of the Board also reviewed Baltimore's Dollar House program from the 1970s and studied audiences in 2017 and 2019 that evaluated the possibility of repeating the program, analyzing the public testimonies that were offered at the time".

[10 units of affordable housing in the Curtis Bay neighborhood are available] for those earning less than $46,000 a year, offering them a 99-year lease, allowing these new owners to build equity if, or if, they leave the Land Trust and sell their property.

dr. Lawrence Brown, cientista pesquisador do Center for Urban Health Equity da Morgan State University, dissebaltimore battlefieldhe believes that something much more ambitious needs to be established.

"With thousands of homes, you would be talking hundreds of millions to properly finance this to make sure people have the capital," Brown said. "Everyone is happy with the dollar... But the problem with empty houses is, 'Do you have the capital to rehabilitate them?'"

Baltimore is already on the verge of creating affordable housing with a series of initiatives nearing completion. So far, the city has allocated just $750,000 of the $33 million in funding through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which was the culmination of a decade of grassroots struggles to invest in developments like community land trusts.

The South Baltimore Community Land Trust will use $750,000 for 10 affordable housing units in the Curtis Bay neighborhood. Available to those earning less than $46,000 a year, these homes offer a 99-year lease, allowing these new owners to build equity if, or if, they leave the Land Trust and sell their properties.

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"When you see how communities are affected by divestment, this focus on community management and development is an opportunity to make real change," said Meleny Thomas, executive director of the South Baltimore Community Land Trust.told meearlier this year. "This can only be done through subsidized opportunities to acquire affordable real estate and partnerships with other agencies."

Community land trusts can play a key role in undoing the damage done by racist public policies such as redlining, divestment and segregation.

“Part of economic dispossession is not just that you hurt individual people economically, but entire neighborhoods are hurt economically,” Brown said. “Community land trusts help address the disadvantages and harm done to the community through this model of democratic ownership.”

Brown himself proposed a $3 billion social impact bond for racial justice. in your bookThe Black Butterfly: The Harmful Race and Space Politics in the United States, proposes compensation to Baltimore neighborhoods for the damage that racist public policies like Redlining have caused to black communities.

“If we're talking about the city healing black neighborhoods that it has damaged, as a unit and across multiple agencies, I think it's important to move forward with these larger remediation efforts as well,” Brown said.

Bypass legislative review

Mosby, who has not previously shared the details of his legislation with the mayor's office, invokes the "down committee" to bypass individual committees and chair hearings on the bill directly before the city council. According to Mosby's office, this is being described as "a move that marks the scale of the legislation and the potential it brings to transform the city."

For Baltimore City Historian Matthew Crenson, appealing to the Committee of the Whole is "a way around the committee process and issues that may reveal critical flaws in this proposal."

For Baltimore City Historian Matthew Crenson, appealing to the Committee of the Whole is "a way around the committee process and issues that may reveal critical flaws in this proposal."

A city government source who wished to remain anonymous explained some of the problems with Mosby's program, starting with its origins in the idealized but actually dollar-filled housing program of the 1970s.

"The original Dollar Homes program was more affordable for people who could get large loans from banks for home renovations and mostly benefited wealthy white developers," they said.baltimore battlefield.

Furthermore, the Mosby legislation could actually weaken current fairness standards, they explained, "This legislation duplicates existing municipal programs, in some cases with weaker fairness standards, and contains provisions irrelevant to the City of Baltimore as a jurisdiction. "

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For example, Baltimore already has a list of available properties and a cost estimate for those properties. And they said that the analysis of the asset disposal process is underway, carried out jointly with the Controllership.

"The council's proposed home repair program is a complete rip-off of the program the city has operated for over 20 years and would legislate weaker standards," they said. “Currently, the city is prioritizing people with less than 30% AMI. This calculation would apply to people below 60% AMI. The council bill limits assistance to $10,000 for an emergency. The city’s current program goes beyond that amount.”

Mosby's legislature also includes a provision for mobile homes, but there are no mobile homes within Baltimore's city limits.

Mosby heavily promotes the Dollar Houses program. In the four days after Mosby announced the law, the Baltimore City Council's official Instagram account, @baltcouncil, posted nine times about the Dollar Homes program. In most of these posts, Mosby tackles the plan with stylish videos or poses with council allies in sharp, professional photos. Of course, there's a hashtag and even a teaser post. It read: "City Council Chairman @nick.mosby wants Baltimore's dollar homes back. Stay tuned for more on this big announcement today. #HouseBaltimore."

For many housing advocates, the Dollar Homes program and the way it is sent by the council is reminiscent of the Mosby Bail Bond Alternatives Act, similarly enacted by Mosby, which the City Council passed, but Mayor Scott later from tenants and vetoed by the professional. - housing advocatesprotested against the proposal. Activists noted how Mosby's fairness rhetoric belied the fact that the bill would have benefited Rhino, a venture-backed start-up in the business of selling deposit insurance, rather than tenants. Housing advocates protested the bill, in one case placing banners at City Hall calling Mosby's bill a "fraud".

Brown emphasized that vetoing that bill resulted in better housing policies. in september scottsigned an invoiceto offer low-income tenants up to $2,000 for their security deposit. This program is run by the city and not a third party like Rhino that could benefit from the arrangement. brown saysbaltimore battlefieldHe hopes there is a similar opportunity to improve the Dollar Homes program.

"I'm sure if the president and the mayor can get together like they used to," Brown said, "a better version, a stronger version of this can be put together."

The first hearing for the Dollar Homes bill and accompanying legislation is December 20 at 5 pm.

Additional information from Brandon Soderberg.



What is the Dollar House program in Baltimore? ›

This is a program that allows eligible Baltimore City residents to lease homes from the City for just $1 per year. Available homes are placed on a property registry. Within 6 months of leasing the property, program participants must begin necessary repairs, as well as make the property their principal residence.

Why are Baltimore Row houses abandoned? ›

Since 1950, Baltimore City has lost over 350,000 residents as the population of surrounding counties has grown. The city declined from being 40% of the State's population to 10%. This decrease in effective demand for housing resulted in disinvestment, abandonment, and a dramatic increase in vacant housing units.

How many abandoned homes are in Baltimore? ›

Baltimore has 14,780 vacant or abandoned properties across the city.

What does it mean to buy a house for a dollar? ›

About Dollar Homes. HUD's Dollar Homes initiative helps local governments to foster housing opportunities for low to moderate income families and address specific community needs by offering them the opportunity to purchase qualified HUD-owned homes for $1 each.

How to buy dollar houses in Baltimore? ›

To be eligible for the program, buyers would need to be so-called “legacy residents,” meaning they have lived here for 15 consecutive years. And city employees would be eligible after five years on the job, yet it doesn't matter how long they have lived in Baltimore.

What is the oldest house in Baltimore? ›

Named for its builder and first resident, the Robert Long House, completed circa 1765, is the oldest surviving residence in Baltimore.

What was the purpose of row houses? ›

Similar to why they started gaining in popularity originally both in Europe and the United States, Row houses make the best use of space on narrow lots. They involve lower building costs and land space requirements, and they are less expensive to build than detached units.

Why does Baltimore have so many homeless? ›

With unemployment and unaffordable housing as the most common causes of homelessness in Baltimore pre-pandemic, we can expect homelessness to increase as a result of COVID-19.

What is the biggest abandoned mansion? ›

1. Lynnewood Hall, Pennsylvania | Abandoned Houses.

What is the oldest house in Maryland? ›

Oldest overall
Charles Carroll HouseAnnapolis, Maryland1721
White House FarmChestertown, Maryland1721; 1831
Anne Arundel County Free SchoolDavidsonville, Maryland1724
East Nottingham Friends MeetinghouseRising Sun, Maryland1724; 1752
89 more rows

What city has the most abandoned homes? ›

The three most vacant cities in the U.S. are all in Florida: Orlando, Miami, and Tampa. These cities are known for tourism and vacation homes, which means houses sit vacant for much of the year. More than 16 million housing units in the U.S. are vacant, bringing the overall vacancy rate to 11.6%.

Can I buy a house and sell it for a dollar? ›

Yes, you can! It's your property, and you are legally free to do with it as you wish. It's well within your rights to sell it for just one dollar. However, the state will recognize that you've sold your house well below market value.

Can you sell your house to your child to avoid inheritance tax? ›

If you continue to benefit from the property in any way, it is known as a gift with reservation of benefit. As a result, inheritance tax will still need to be paid on the property when you die. The only way around this rule is if you pay rent on the property at the market rate or the new owner also lives there.

Why are houses bought in cash? ›

If a property is listed as cash buyers only, this means that the seller is not interested in potential buyers that are either waiting for a mortgage approval to be able to buy or that are waiting for a sale of their own to then have the funds to complete on the property.

Is buying property in Baltimore a good investment? ›

Baltimore has, over time, proven to be one of the best spots for long-term real estate investments. According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the Baltimore County typical home value has increased by 8.0% since last year, with the average house on the market at $332,235.

Is it a good time to buy a house in Baltimore? ›

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson Metro home values have gone up 9.5% over the past year. Zillow predicts that home values will decline by 0.5% between July 2022 to July 2023. Baltimore City homes are affordable with a typical home value being $205,016, up 10.

What qualifies as a bedroom in Baltimore city? ›

You might want to check with your local building code for the exact specifications, but according to most codes in Maryland, a bedroom is a room that: Is used for sleeping. Has a minimum head clearance of 7.5 feet. Has a door for entrance and privacy.

What is the oldest livable house in America? ›

The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts is a historic house built ca. 1641, making it the oldest surviving timber-frame house in North America that has been verified by dendrochronology testing. Puritan settler Jonathan Fairbanks constructed the farm house for his wife Grace (née Smith) and their family.

What is the oldest part of Baltimore? ›

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Baltimore and a significant part of the city's maritime history, Fells Point took its name from Quaker William Fell, who settled near a hook-shaped peninsula along the Patapsco River due to its deep water and proximity to timber.

What town has the most old houses? ›

Founded by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565, St. Augustine ranks number one as the city with the most historical homes – 11,231 registered homes per capita, to be exact. A massive 22% of all homes in St.

What are the cons of row houses? ›

There are a few potential disadvantages to row homes that potential homeowners or renters should consider.
  • HOA fees can be expensive. There may be some HOA fees associated with the upkeep of a row home. ...
  • Restrictions can limit freedom. ...
  • Potential lack of privacy.
Jun 8, 2021

Why is it called a row house? ›

Rowhouse definition

Well, similar to a townhouse, a row house is a single-family dwelling that is attached to other units by common walls. The biggest difference between a row house and a townhouse: the outside. Row houses got their name because these houses are lined up perfectly in a row along a street.

What are the advantages of row houses? ›

Advantages of Row Housing

Maintenance and operating expenses — heating and care of exterior surfaces (row houses usually have brick facing) — are lower. For those with little or no taste for outdoor landscaping and gardening, there is no need to spend long hours keeping up large private yards.

What state in the US has the most homeless? ›

The California State Auditor found in their April 2018 report Homelessness in California, that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development noted that "California had about 134,000 homeless individuals, which represented about 24 percent of the total homeless population in the nation” The California State ...

What is the homeless capital of America? ›

What is the homeless capital of America? It is relatively small Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz County has a population of 273,000 and according to a 2022 homeless census has 2,229 self-identified homeless residents for a rate of 852.9 per 100,000 – placing it at the top of a list of 15 cities nationally.

Where is the largest homeless population in the United States? ›

Among major cities, Los Angeles (54,469 individuals) and New York City (32,308) have the largest unhoused populations, collectively accounting for nearly one-fifth of the country's total afflicted.

Why was the Titanic mansion abandoned? ›

Since 1996, however, this Gilded Age mansion has been owned by a Korean church, says Kent. Unfortunately, “they could not afford to maintain the property, so they quietly vacated Lynnewood Hall several years ago.” Kent adds that Dr.

Why do old mansions get abandoned? ›

Common Reasons People Abandon Houses

These are some of the most likely reasons. Financial distress culminates in an inability to pay the mortgage. Missed mortgage payments occur, which leads to the foreclosure process. Unpaid back taxes.

Can you buy abandoned mansions? ›

The answer is yes, you can. However, purchasing an unoccupied and abandoned property may not be as straight forward as purchasing an occupied residential or commercial property.

What is the oldest town in Maryland? ›

St. Mary's City

What is the biggest house in Maryland? ›

Once the largest home in Maryland, the Government House in Annapolis has been bumped off its pinnacle by Norton Manor, a 47,000-square-foot modern mansion in Potomac, Maryland.

Where is the abandoned mansion in Maryland? ›

Built in 1690, this abandoned mansion is tucked inside Piscataway Park and has been reclaimed by nature.

What happens when a house sits vacant? ›

Structural Damage

Generally, these happen because AC and heat are turned off, and there's no one to manage the condition of the home. The other issue here is that when no one is living in the home, there's no one to notice early signs of damage, especially when it comes to things like water or pest damage.

What is the biggest abandoned city in the world? ›

Bodie, California: This former Wild West boomtown had a population of 10,000 people in the late 1870s, but Bodie's popularity shrank over the years and it was eventually abandoned.

How long is Baltimore County housing waiting list? ›

Baltimore's public housing authority announced Tuesday that it will cease accepting applications from residents, citing more than 14,000 applications on a wait list and an average wait time of more than five years.

What is Baltimore doing for the homeless? ›


Front Door Baltimore City is a rapid re-housing program that serves 110 families through intensive case management, housing support, workforce development services, client assistance to remove barriers to housing, and short-term rental assistance.

What is Baltimore housing Mobility Program? ›

The program provides housing vouchers to qualified and experienced developers for the development of affordable housing, including new construction, substantial rehabilitation, or existing housing. This effort encourages affordable housing development in areas of opportunity in the Baltimore region.

What is house Assistance Program? ›

The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.

What is the most Section 8 will pay? ›

This payment standard will be between 90 and 110 percent of the Fair Market Rent. Therefore, the three factors that determine how much Section 8 pays landlords are: The Fair Market Rent that has been set for the metropolitan area where your property is located. HUD publishes their list of Fair Market Rents each year.

How do I check my position on the housing list? ›

If you want to know your position on the housing list, ask the local authority. Your position may go up or down depending on the circumstances of other people on the list and as your own circumstances change.

What is considered low income in Maryland? ›

2023 Poverty Guidelines that Apply in Maryland
Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline (annual income)200%
5 more rows
Feb 13, 2023

Why is poverty so high in Baltimore? ›

Baltimore struggles with racial segregation, high rates of violent crime, a struggling public school system, and a large share of single-parent households—all factors that can hurt the city's income mobility rates and opportunity.

What is the most homeless states in America? ›

Homeless Population by State
#StateHomeless Population
2New York91,271
46 more rows

How can I get help paying my rent in Baltimore? ›

Please contact one of the CAP Center offices by calling 410-396-5555 or by visiting a site near you to be connected to additional resources. We will work to connect residents to additional resources from community organizations and programs that can provide rental assistance on a case by case basis.

What is rapid rehousing in Maryland? ›

Rapid Rehousing (RRH) is an intervention designed to help individuals and families to quickly exit homelessness, return to housing in the community, and not become homeless again in the near term.

What is pop housing? ›

The Procurement Opportunity Programs (POP) provide opportunities to increase the number of direct HUD contracting and subcontracting opportunities to small businesses.

What is the House grant? ›

Housing grants provide an alternative for low-income families to secure the funds needed for obtaining housing. This can be for purchasing a home, buying rental property for housing income, making major renovations on existing properties, or to receive assistance when in danger of losing your home through foreclosure.

What to do if you can't pay rent? ›

Try to reach an agreement with your landlord

Ask your landlord if you can spread the amount you owe across future rent payments. This could be easier than having to pay the whole amount at once. Your landlord doesn't have to agree but they may prefer to negotiate with you, rather than go through the eviction process.

Is a USDA loan for poor people? ›

USDA Offers 100% Direct Rural Housing Loans for Low Income Families | Rural Development. A . gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


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