Funding Has Dropped Sharply for Vacants to Value Incentive Program Over the Years, Records Show

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vtovA popular homebuyers incentive program quickly ran out of money to assist applicants this year because it began the fiscal year with sharply less money than in previous years, according to statistics provided by the Baltimore City housing department.
The housing department announced this month that it would stop taking applications for the Vacants to Value Booster Program because it reached its funding limit less than two months into the 2017 fiscal year. According to city officials, it was the first time the housing department had to stop taking applications for the Booster Program.

The Booster Program provides incentives of $10,000 to help potential buyers purchase vacant city-owned properties offered through the Vacants to Value homeownership program. The city’s 2017 fiscal year began on July 1.

The notice means that prospective buyers who were hoping for assistance from the Vacants to Value Booster Program must wait until July 1, 2017 for another round of funding. The Vacants to Value program itself is still in operation and actively marketing vacant city-owned properties.

According to Tania Baker, director of communications for the housing department, the city had $300,000 to distribute to eligible Booster Program applicants in fiscal 2017, or enough for 30 cases.

The $300,000 figure was down sharply from the comparable figures in the four previous years the Booster Program was in effect.

According to Baker, the amount available to Booster Program applicants in previous years was: $960,000 in fiscal 2016 (enough for 96 cases); $800,000 in fiscal 2015 (enough for 80 cases); $2,255,000 million in fiscal 2014 (enough for 229 cases), and $1,425,750 in fiscal 2013 (enough for 155 cases).

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has pointed to the Vacants to Value rehab program as one of the successes of her tenure as mayor.

Baker said in an email message that the program has received 700 applications over the past five years, including 30 this year. It stopped accepting applications when it received 30 this year.

The decision to stop accepting applications has been disappointing to prospective homebuyers and real estate agents who used the program to help purchase city owned properties.

“Distressing news for many would be homeowners in Baltimore,” real estate agent Tracey Clark wrote on Facebook. “This program has been instrumental in turning vacant properties into viable city homes. Many of my buyers are in homes now specifically because of the down payment help this program offered. What happened to the funding?”

Does the housing department have any advice for what people should do if they were planning to submit an application but can’t now?

“We will take name and contact information should any additional funds become available over the next ten months,” Baker said.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts


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