Baltimore City Housing

January 25, 2006

Via E-mail
Bryan Taylor
1708-1710 Madison Ave.
Baltimore, MD  21217
 
Re: 1704 Madison Avenue
 
Dear Mr. Taylor,
 
I am writing in response to your e-mail dated January 23, 2006.  I appreciate your taking time to respond to my efforts to reach you last week by phone.  The purpose of my call was to hear first hand your account of the complaints that prompted your letter to Council President Dixon the week prior. 
 
Failing that, I am writing to inform you of the steps my office is taking relative to 1704 Madison Avenue.  It is the intention of the Department of Housing to sell this property to a responsible individual to rehab the property for home ownership.  The sooner that can be accomplished, the better off both the community and the city will be.
 
Toward that end, the property has been re-listed with a private broker.  Bids will be accepted until Friday, January 27th.  Once the bid deadline has passed, the broker will forward bids to the Office of the Comptroller.  Upon receipt of the bids, a panel comprised of staff members from two city agencies will review the bids and submit a recommendation to sell the property.  The panel will consider a variety of factors in formulating its recommendation, among other things: the feasibility of the proposed development, the development experience of the bidder, and the bidder’s history of housing code violations or financial difficulty.  That recommendation is forwarded to Commissioner Graziano and, upon his concurrence, to the Board of Estimates for final approval.  The buyer is then given 60 days to obtain financing and close the transaction.  As long as the buyer is showing progress toward obtaining financing, the City will grant additional time to settle.
 
The process I’ve just described can take several months or more depending upon the condition of the property and the number of interested buyers.  It may frustrate you and prospective buyers that we insert conditions into our contracts or take weeks to conduct our due diligence.  We feel strongly that those safeguards are important and that any time added to the process results in a more qualified buyer and a better result for the neighborhood. 
 
Significantly, those conditions are well publicized and we advise prospective buyers in advance what is expected of them.  If nothing else, we apply our process fairly and evenly to potential purchasers.  Despite full knowledge of the rules, some purchasers still attempt to circumvent the process and re-write the rules.  Inexplicably, when a buyer backs out of a transaction 6 months into the process because the buyer is unable to satisfy our conditions of sale, the City is blamed for the failed transaction.
 
The SCOPE process that you deride has sold 100 properties in the past 3 years.  It is a successful program as measured against past efforts to sell city-owned properties.  Its success is due, in large measure, to the work of numerous individuals -- private citizens and government employees – who worked many hours together to help improve this city through the sale of vacant property. 
 
The process is by no means perfect and there is room for improving it further.  I’ll gladly consider any constructive suggestions you have for improving the process. 
 
Finally, I understand there has been some history of un-authorized entry at the property since it was listed with SCOPE.  Should you notice that the door has been forced open, I ask that you notify one of my staff so that she may make arrangements to have it secured.  You should contact Ms. Patrice Sowah at 443-984-1645.  If she does not acknowledge receipt of your complaint in 1 business day, you should contact me at 443-984-1647 or by e-mail at Michael.Bainum@baltimorecity.gov.  I ask that you do NOT contact 311 to request that the property be boarded.  This will restrict the broker’s access to the property and serve to lengthen the time it takes for the City to sell the property.
 
Sincerely,
 
      /s/
 
Michael Bainum
 
cc.        Mayor Martin O’Malley
            President Sheila Dixon
            Commissioner Paul T. Graziano
            Comptroller Joan Pratt
            Depty. Commissioner Chris Shea
            Kimberly Washington, Constituent Services Liaison
            Patrice Sowah