Bankers Are Buying Baltimore’s Debt, Charging Families Crazy Interest Rates, Then Taking Their Homes

"State Delegate Cory McCray, a Democrat who grew up in and represents Baltimore, told ThinkProgress he has gotten a handful of phone calls this year from constituents on the cusp of losing their home over an unpaid water bill.

“The city needs a way to recoup its money, but they shouldn’t take someone’s home for that small amount,” he said. “Your house is your wealth that you pass on to the next generation. We have to protect that.”

McCray and other lawmakers recently passed a bill to raise the amount that would trigger a lien from $250 to $500, which he emphasized is still an unfairly low amount over which to lose a home that could be worth hundreds of thousands. He added that when at-risk families reach out to the city, they can find an affordable payment plan “99 percent of the time” and a foreclosure only happens “under dire circumstances.” But the city continues to have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, and the impact has been most severe in communities of color. Baltimore now has the ironic problem of both a growing homeless population and a growing stock of vacant and often dilapidated homes.

The Abell Foundation recommends raising the threshold to $1,000, noting that neighboring D.C. waits until residents owe at least $2,500. They also emphasize that the vast majority of the money extracted from residents by these hard policies go to the hedge funds and other investors, not the city.

The hedge funds reaping these profits in Baltimore are also major donors in national elections."