Evaluating a program is different than evaluating program implementation. I don’t intend to provide research backed analysis on the projected success of the Baltimore City Vacants to Value initiative. Rather, my objective is to simplify. I aim to provide you, the individual interested in owning a home, some semblance of program understanding.

v2v

THE QUICKIE:

In Short
Vacants to Values aims to get people to buy vacant houses.

Greatest Strength
You can actually get a hefty amount of money for buying one of the qualified properties, and City support to better your new ‘hood.

Greatest Weakness 
Because the housing department can’t endorse certain services due to liability, the potential owner is left hanging when it comes to many of the required steps to home renovation and completion.

Greatest Hope
The curators of V2V are conscious of rebranding and new delivery methods. If you have ideas, technologies, or thoughts that can lead to success, you should contact them. julia.day@baltimorecity.gov

 

BEFORE YOU BEGIN:

What Do I Need?

Money. Although the city will pay a good bit towards your purchase, you’re still buying a vacant home which you agree to fix up within one year. If you can’t afford to buy a vacant home, you can’t afford to redevelop one.

Do You Have:

- Current housing code violations in Baltimore City?

- Outstanding taxes due to Baltimore City?

- The intent to use your new home as something other than a primary residence?

If any of these are checked you are not eligible.

 

MAKING IT HAPPEN:

Find a Property

http://www.baltimorehousing.org/vacants_to_value_search.aspx

 

Become Eligible for Money

Enroll in homeownership counseling: this is a must for eligibility.

http://static.baltimorehousing.org/pdf/homeownership_counseling.pdf

 

Fill Out An Application

Be Prepared:

- To answer questions about your current lawful status.

- To detail how you intend to pay for the home and renovations.

- To list your equity, debt, projected costs, and financial support.

- To summarize your development plans and how they will help eliminate blight.

For quick turnaround – you’ll know within three weeks if you’ve been accepted http://static.baltimorehousing.org/pdf/vtov_application.pdf.

 

Available Programs to Get Money
* These grants were available when this article was originally published on June 6, 2013

- Buying Into Baltimore: $5,000 deferred loan (40 available)

- Live Near Your Work: $3,000 from you + $3,000 from employer + 3,000 from the City

- V2V Booster: $10,000 in down payment and closing costs (50 available)

- Good Neighbors Program: $5,000 deferred loan, dissolving at $20%/year for 5 years (100 available)

- State Program Assistance: $10,000 (50 available), $5,000 deferred loan

 

More Money

If you are over 65, disabled, or a qualified low income household, several more sources may pertain to you:
CDBG, Deferred Loan Owner-Occupied Program, Office of Rehabilitation, Senior Roof Repair, Housing Rehab Program, Accessible Homes for Seniors

 

AFTER GETTING YOUR HOME:

Timeline for Completion
You have 1 year to finish needed renovations and development.

Support for Completion
[cue crickets]

The beautiful thing about the Vacants to Value (V2V) program and those who run it is that they actually give a damn about making it better. The implementation of the V2V Program is almost there. The premise is solid, though the process only takes a potential homeowner halfway. The greatest gaps include oversight and completion. In part, this is completely understandable – the government can’t recommend service providers because they’d be liable if the service provider (like a plumber or electrician) screwed up. Unfortunately this leaves a huge gap for failure, as the program plans for those with renovation money, but not for those who lack self-discipline to finish what they’ve started. Additionally, there’s no real continued oversight to make sure the home is being rehabilitated as promised.

Julie Day and Michael Braverman, the two individuals directing Vacants to Value are anxious to take this program to the next level. V2V holds open houses, workshops, and has a loosely kept alumni database solicited for feedback, but the advertising might be misplaced and the website is nothing short of overwhelming and disengaging. Going through the mock process of buying one of these homes, I found myself wanting a map view as alternative to ‘searchable by neighborhood,’ since I didn’t know where many of these neighborhoods were, and filtering through website text took hours. Fortunately, Julie is working with MICA to rebrand the site and graphics, and would love some sort of smartphone app so people could view real time data on available homes. I also feel there needs to be a searchable funding database, where I only see the loans for which I am qualified. I also feel the gaps in this program provide incredible opportunity for local freelancing technologists, designers, and event planners to propose tactics for program betterment.

While the homebuyer is responsible for making changes to the actual house, the government is responsible for making changes around it: roads will be cleaned up, potholes filled, and tree branches trimmed. In exchange for your investment in the private realm, the City will invest in the surrounding public realm. Overall, it’s a pretty sweet deal – you just have to make sure your genetic makeup is ready to dedicate a year of your life to proactively use the $30,000 the government gives you.

About The Author

Lindsey is an urban planner and writer based in Baltimore.

  • kKawecki

    Hi, I wanted to add a little info I learned attending a seminar on buying/rehabbing V2V homes using HUD 203K loans which can make the process more viable for some:

    HUD 203K loans are government backed/insured mortgages that you can take on for rehabilitating buildings/homes (like V2V homes) & under which you are able to get the funds for 110% of the value of the home POST-rehabilitation in order to help finance the project (e.g. if the V2V purchase price is $5,000 but the estimated value of the property AFTER rehab is $100,000, you can get a mortgage of $110,000, which can be used both to cover the purchase & rehabilitation of the home)

    Using those loans can make the prospect of rehabbing a house within 1 year more realistic, and anyone can apply for the mortgage (i.e. you don’t need to be a senior, vet, etc.), but it does come with its own sets of restrictions including (but not limited to):
    -you must use a HUD certified contractor to oversee the project (there are some contractors that specialize in this, including some that are non-profit organizations)
    -while the home owner’s “sweat equity” may still be included in the process, it is complicated by the fact that the home owner & contractor must be in agreement as to how & where it comes into play (e.g. the contractor agrees to let the homeowner do the interior painting & only charges the homeowner for the paint and signing off fee but not for labor ), AND some contractors may be reluctant to allow for this in the project, as their name/certification is on the line if the inspector has issues with the way any of the work is completed
    -you still need to honor the 1 year timeline
    -the funds/mortgage are held in escrow during the process and released to the contractor as work is completed AND inspected (e.g. the mortgage is based on final property value & all of those funds minus the purchase price go into an escrow account at closing; let’s say the contract line for internal framing on the project is $15,000, that $15,000 would be released to the contractor from the escrow account AFTER the internal framing has been completed AND inspected by a government building inspector)
    -you still need start up money to get the project going (remember, the contractor isn’t getting any money for any portion of the work/materials until after work is done), some of which may be possible to arrange using V2V incentive or other eligible grants
    -if you use a HUD 203K loan, you are still eligible to get grants/incentives that go along with the Buying into Baltimore, V2V, etc. grants and incentives for which you/the home are eligible
    -you need to have an established plan for completion of the project (created with contractor)
    -some of the funds (there is a cap I believe) can be used to cover architectural fees/work if needed for the project
    -you must go through home buying counseling before getting the loan (also true for the V2V program in general, as mentioned above in article)
    -it is up to the home buyer to decide if the project is economically viable for them (i.e. you have to decide if it makes sense to take on a project if the purchase + rehab cost is greater than the post-rehab value of the house, which may be the case with some projects; remember that your loan will be based on the projected value of the house after rehab NOT the cost of actually doing the rehab)
    -the project is designed for making homes safe, habitable, updated & energy efficient; it is NOT intended to use the rehab process to fill the home with luxury amenities
    -you may continue to upgrade/renovate the home after the project is completed, but I believe any of those costs will not be covered by the loan funds
    -the HUD 203k program is a loan/mortgage program, so at the end of 1 year (or sooner), you will have a renovated home, but you will also have a mortgage for which you are responsible
    -it’s a loan, so you have to apply & be approved for it as you would any other loan/mortgage
    -some of the mortgage funds may be used to cover living expenses on a current rental before the home behing rehabbed becomes habitable (there are limitations & caps on this, which may be based on total amount or length of time – I want to say it’s up to 6 months of rental costs, but I don’t remember specifically; it was also not entirely clear in the seminar how those funds are made available from the escrow account after closing…)

    And a note on eligible properties:
    -Yes, in order to be eligible, it must be your intention to make the property your primary residence, BUT you can use the 203k loan to purchase multi-family homes (up 4 individual apartments) with the intent to reside in one apartment and rent the others.
    -In certain “downtown” circumstances, you may also use the program to rehab a building in which 1/4 of the total building will be used for a commercial enterprise (e.g. a hair salon at street level), BUT none of the 203k mortgage funds can be used for renovating/equipping the commercial space (though they can be used to renovate the entire building facade, including portions of facade adjoining the commercial area; I’m sure there are additional specifications here as well…), and of course, it still does need to be your primary residence as well

    Just with the V2V program in general, the 203K loans will make sense for some to use and not for everyone, & it is up to the individual to evaluate if they can/should take on rehabbing a building in 1 year regardless of their plans/methods for making it a reality

    more info for the HUD 203K program can be found at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/sfh/203k/203kabou