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Baltimore mayor looking to encourage families to take over vacant homes

A new plan in Baltimore aims to get families moving into the city's vacant homes.

A new plan in Baltimore aims to get families moving into the city's vacant homes.

The mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, has unveiled an aggressive plan to help the city reduce its inventory of vacant homes, by offering to streamline the purchasing process and give incentives to buyers.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that the city, which owns about one-fourth of the city's 16,000 vacant properties, will give firefighters, teachers and police officers down payment assistance through a $5,000 forgivable loan to purchase any of the vacant homes. The city has also put together a number of other incentive programs to motivate those interested in moving into a vacant or recently renovated home.

"Vacant houses are more than just an eyesore," the mayor said. "They pose a serious public safety and public health threat to our citizens. They depress the value of surrounding homes and they deplete already scarce city resources."

Rawlings-Blake added that officials hope the programs will reduce the number of vacant homes by 1,000 in the next year.

That down payment assistance could help a number of families make the transition to homeownership. A survey earlier this year by Trulia found that 79 percent of renters said they might buy a home within 12 months. Of those people, 47 percent said saving up for a down payment could motivate them to pack up their moving boxes.