In heated meeting, mortgage provider offers vision for Baltimore’s $1 homes that critics call ‘nonsense’ – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore city leaders introduced legislation late Tuesday to reduce the number of vacant homes in the city. Council Chairman Nick Mosby’s proposal includes a revival of the dollar home program, in which vacant city-owned homes are sold for one dollar.

“If we don’t do it now, who will? If now is not the time, when is the time? And that’s what this legislation is based on to make sure we connect our residents to pipelines of homeownership opportunities,” Mosby said.

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The proposal brought dozens of bill supporters to City Hall, with people streaming out of the overflow rooms and into the hallways. The rally was led by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a Boston-based nonprofit mortgage provider that says its mission is to fight predatory lending.

The NACA Mortgage offers “no down payment, no closing costs, low interest rate, no PMI loans for low to moderate income earners,” according to its website. The organization’s CEO, Bruce Marks, testified as a key witness on the bill.

Under Mosby’s proposal, legacy residents of Baltimore, those who have lived in Baltimore for more than a decade, would be eligible for the dollar home program. Beneficiaries of the program would receive a $50,000 grant from the city for renovations under a repair grant bill, and the nonprofit would provide a low-interest loan for pay the mortgage.

Marks singled out Mayor Brandon Scott as an opponent of moving the bill forward. He accused the mayor and city councilor Odette Ramos to work for property developers.

“Sir, you can’t accuse me of this,” Ramos shouted at Marks over Mosby’s gavel, “You’re not from here sir, you don’t even know, you don’t even know.”

Councilman Ryan Dorsey walked out during the session.

“I left tonight’s hearing early because it was an embarrassment that I was not going to honor by participating,” Dorsey said. said in a tweet. “Baltimore deserves so much better than having our time wasted and our intelligence insulted with astroturf nonsense. We have plenty of other things to do.

Councilman Zeke Cohen said the plan made no financial sense, saying there would be little return on investment after refurbishing vacant housing.

“It would require massive renovations, it’s mostly shells and it’s surrounded by other vacant housing, so the concern we had is that if you’re investing, say, $150-200,000 in renovating one of these things, it could be worth, I don’t know, $80 to $100,000, which would mean you’d be underwater,” Cohen said.

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Marks led the rally directly to Scott’s office while council was in session and knocked on the metal door, telling the crowd that the mayor had refused to meet with his organization to talk about the program.

“Frankly, the chairman’s legislation does not align with the mayor’s vision of meaningful policy and programs designed to help or even come close to our communities,” said Scott spokesman James Bentley. “This legislation seems more harmful than helpful.”

Bentley said the nonprofit never requested a meeting with Scott until Tuesday night.

According to Cohen, the mayor was not in the building, but an elderly woman was in the office and frightened by the commotion.

Cohen called Marks’ NACA product “questionable at best”.

Last month, Mayor Scott pledged $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to remedy vacant properties. The investment included funding for capital investments, blight removal and prevention, and resident protection, but does not flow into the dollar house program.

“The people of Baltimore need real transformational change, not more pie in the sky,” Bentley said in a statement. “Mayor Scott has proven his commitment to tending to vacant properties and creating opportunities for residents of traditionally underserved communities to become homeowners.”

The bill passed last month and ended in a 7-7 tie, with one absentee vote. The city council did not vote and did not plan to vote on Tuesday evening. Some MPs tell me that there will probably be another hearing to discuss the bill further.

Mosby’s proposal is one of many efforts to quell the dangers posed by the grossly 15,000 vacant properties in Baltimore after a collapse at a vacant home killed three firefighters in January.

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Alma M. Buchanan