The Baltimore City Council bill requiring fire sprinkler systems was approved and signed into law last week -- but for new homes only, not rehabs.

The original proposal brought a chorus of rehabber protests because it would have mandated sprinklers on any project covering at least 30 percent of the home's gross floor area, a threshold that would include do-it-yourself replacement of carpet as well as major rehabilitation efforts.

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City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who sponsored the bill with Councilman Warren Branch, said after the early June hearing that she would amend the bill so only gut rehabs -- major projects -- would require sprinklers. But real estate investors were still opposed. Baltimore's housing agency estimated the expense of installing a system in an existing home at $13,000 to $15,000, much more than in a home being built from scratch.

"What passed finally was new-construction only," Clarke said. "There's no rehabs in the bill anymore."

She said she's disappointed and hopes to try again.

"I'm going to take some time this summer with the fire marshal and the contractors and the water department and make sure we get the price that we all agree it costs, and we've got all systems supporting what needs to happen for the cost to be minimal," Clarke said.  

Some of you commented on the earlier posts to say you supported the idea and thought it would save lives. Many of you said "thumbs down," noting the cost and the likelihood of fewer rehabs as a result.

Pete from Highlandtown wrote, "This is not going to be a matter of a few rich guys making $15,000 less on each house. This is going to be about guys with low profit margins going out of business because they cant afford to fix up houses.

"I never have made more than $17,000 in my life. And i was never sad about that. I was content with my life and my income. But now even $ 15-$17 thousand dollars a year is something that i cannot achieve working construction in Baltimore. I am a hard worker who has never been on unemployment or any kind of welfare. But its obvious to me that the City doesnt care about people like me."

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