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Baltimore’s tax sale proceeds despite pressure from housing advocates, brings in $18.8M

Baltimore’s annual tax sale Monday brought approximately $18.8 million to the city coffers after housing advocates called for the event to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city auctioned off 5,302 unpaid liens on residential properties, generating about $12.6 million in revenue, and sold 611 unpaid liens on commercial properties, earning an additional $6.2 million, according to Stefanie Mavronis, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.

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Each May the city holds its annual tax lien certificate sale, during which investors can purchase liens on properties with past-due taxes or other delinquent charges. Those investors can then collect the debts, with interest, and even foreclose on the properties if they aren’t paid.

Silhouettes of the media are visible March 22 outside City Hall at a news conference called to discuss the impact of the city tax sale on vulnerable homeowners threatened by tax liens.
Silhouettes of the media are visible March 22 outside City Hall at a news conference called to discuss the impact of the city tax sale on vulnerable homeowners threatened by tax liens. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

Housing advocates and City Council members had called for the 2021 tax sale to be canceled or to remove homeowners from the process, citing the lingering economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The city removed about 974 properties, representing about $2.5 million in revenue, before the tax sale, according to Mavronis.

Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott pledged in early May to closely monitor the tax sale and take action to support homeowners “during and immediately following” the event.

Finance Director Henry Raymond previously said the city expected to receive $14 million to $15 million from the sale and “desperately needs” the money. The finance department also is assigning three full-time employees to assist homeowners, the mayor said at the time.

Last year, more than 200 tax sale foreclosure filings were recorded with the courts in Baltimore.

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Baltimore Sun reporters Emily Opilo and Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this article.

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