City Council President Nick Mosby is aiming to resurrect Baltimore’s popular dollar house program and create a fund for home repair grants of up to $25,000 for properties in redlined neighborhoods through a package of new bills introduced Monday.
The Democrat’s legislation would rent vacant homes owned by Baltimore for two-year leases at a cost of just $1. During that time, prospective buyers would pay for repairs needed to make the homes habitable. The city would then transfer the title to the buyer. A version of the dollar house program that ran in the 1970s breathed new life into neighborhoods such as Otterbein and Pigtown and was in such high demand that officials chose eligible participants through a lottery.
The package’s proposed programs, which also include a bill to give senior residents grants to pay down reverse mortgages, would cost around $200 million to fund, according to an estimate from the Council President’s office.
Mosby is calling for Mayor Brandon Scott to fund the initiatives through the American Rescue Plan Act federal stimulus. The mayor wields sole power over most city spending; the council cannot move money around the city’s budget nor dictate any spending of the $641 million in ARPA money.
Mosby argues that the ARPA funds represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and should be put toward remedying a handful of systemic issues, rather than divvying cash out in many different directions.
“Not only can we provide opportunities for folks that have been living with the crime and the blight, but provide them access to potentially becoming homeowners and developing generational wealth,” he said at a council meeting.
At a news conference ahead of that meeting, Mosby said that his team sat down with Scott staffers on Friday to discuss the bills and share data from similar programs in other cities.
“It’s a lot of information. They’re looking through it,” he said. “We’ve been partners in progress since taking over in our new roles and capacities, and we look forward to continuing to work with the mayor.”
Scott spokesman Cal Harris disputed that, saying in a statement that “the Mayor’s Office has unfortunately not received details about the Council President’s proposed legislation, but will carefully consider any ideas advanced by the City Council.
“Mayor Scott is intentional about making a transformative impact in Baltimore, particularly through the equitable distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds,” Harris said. “To expand affordable homeownership and support for our legacy residents, the Scott administration will announce a substantial investment in historically redlined neighborhoods.”
Mosby said the dollar house program would help close the racial wealth gap by creating an affordable pathway to homeownership for long-term residents, particularly those in redlined Black neighborhoods that experienced systemic disinvestment in the early 20th century.
A 2020 report from the Abell Foundation showed that Baltimore’s Black homeownership has fallen at …….