As reported by the Baltimore Business Journal, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants to give property tax credits to builders of apartments (50 or more units) in certain sections of the city, including downtown.
The tax break would apply to either new apartments or office buildings converted to apartments.
This is part of the Mayor's (rather vague) goal of attracting 10,000 new families to Baltimore City in 10 years.
Assuming under this plan, the Mayor means rental units and not owner occupied condominiums, there is one major flaw that I can see:
Renters do not pay property taxes.
While the city may see an increase in the local tax collected by new residents renting in the city, it is doubtful that those dollars would be enough to offset the amount of money lost by the continued exodus of people leaving the city, many of them home owners.
(This also goes to the vagueness of the Mayor's "10,000 new families" goal. What if a single person moves into one of these new apartments while a family of five moves out of a neighborhood that is dying? Does the Mayor count this as "one new family" even though the net lose to the city population is four?)
And the fact is that with so many abandoned homes in the city just rotting away, why isn't this plan more geared towards converting those sagging hulks into units occupied by owners?
I have said it before and I will say it again, Baltimore City needs to start giving those boarded up monstrosities away to people who will promise to fix them up and live in them for ten years.
We could start by giving them away to public employees (cops, firefighters, clerks, etc.).
We could give them away with no or low interest loans to help the takers refurbish the homes.
I would wager that if Baltimore City saw an increase in home owners who pay property taxes (and, in theory, lowering the property tax rate for everyone), than apartment builders would have reason to build without any tax incentives. The private sector will go where the money is.
I have nothing against renters and I give credit to the Mayor for trying to turn our city around. But I do question the benefit the city receives by giving these kind of breaks to builders of apartments while many home owners struggle every day to stay afloat in our drowning city.