Stepping over needles on the sidewalk, Alexander Cruz walked up to the crumbling front stoop of a West Baltimore home. He craned his neck and looked through an open third-story window to see whether the roof had caved in yet. Cruz’s company had a deal to buy this vacant rowhouse in the New Southwest/Mount Clare neighborhood, one of at least 15,000 in Baltimore. He wanted to renovate it, rent it to a family and remove the eyesore from a block on West Pratt Street that otherwise appeared to be occupied. Then Cruz learned the property owner owed more than $100,000 in property taxes and water bills that had gone unpaid for years, snowballing debt until it became overwhelming. Homes saddled with such debt are called “ghost homes” because their debts are so large that no one will buy the homes, condemning them to a sort of housing purgatory. The vacant homes then become crime magnets and fire hazards.
‘Ghost homes’ haunt Baltimore’s housing market. City officials think they have a creative solution.
November 23, 2022