Baltimore’s City Council has seemingly buried the council president’s proposal to recreate a “Dollar-house” program.
Acting as a committee of the whole, the council deadlocked 7 to 7 with one absence when Council President Nick Mosby insisted on a vote after a hurried and contentious meeting on March 3. Unlike the original Dollar-house program of the 1960s, Mosby’s plan called for targeting only longtime residents who have been renting rather than owning.
The original program invited residents to buy vacant houses for a dollar provided they bore the cost of renovation with low-cost loans and agreed to live in them for several years. Mosby’s package of three bills would have offered $25,000 grants to those acquiring the houses but would have required them to bring them up to code and live in them. He wanted to limit the available houses to neighborhoods historically impacted by redlining and disinvestment.
Council member Eric Costello, whose district includes Bolton Hill, said he voted with Mosby “as a courtesy” to let the proposals move out of committee but told the council president he would not support the package presented. Mayor Brandon Scott and the city’s housing agency opposed the legislation.
Costello said he believed the package presented “could, unintentionally, negatively impact the people it was targeted to help. The cost of bringing the designated properties up to code would far exceed the grants and could put the new owners in an underwater situation,” he said. The cost of fully renovating townhouses in nearby Upton, he said, has shown that it takes about $200,000 to restore each house.