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Vacants to Value: Still Growing After All Three Years

P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Three years ago, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano a directive. 

“No more red tape, no more excuses.  Get Baltimore’s vacants and abandoned properties cleaned up and developed more quickly more efficiently and more economically,” she recalled during a breakfast at the Vollmer Center at Cylburn Arboretum in Northwest Baltimore.

That was the beginning of Vacants to Values, the mayor’s signature program to clean up the city’s vacant, blighted properties. Officials from the city and the state celebrated the program’s third anniversary Tuesday.

The program has been credited with initiating the rehabilitation of 1,500 vacant properties and the demolition of 700 dilapidated structures. It is also credited for awarding more than 500 homebuyer assistance grants and the adoption and greening of 800 lots by community groups.

The breakfast kicked off a day full of events marking the program’s anniversary, including a housewarming in Remington, a demolition in Johnson Square, and a workshop in Broadway East.

In addition, the mayor unveiled a new logo and website for the program that was developed in collaboration with students from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). She said new billboards are on the way as well.

Rawlings-Blake also announced an expansion of the Baltimore Homeownership Incentive Program, called “BHiP,” that includes grant increases to $5,000 to help city employees and others buy homes in the city.