The Schmoke administration has asked the courts to give an East Baltimore community group control of two vacant houses in the 1700 block of East Eager Street on the grounds that the houses are a nuisance to the community and should be taken from their owners.
A lawsuit filed by the city and the Middle East Community Organization on Thursday seeks to take advantage of a change in the city building code that permits a vacant and derelict building to be declared a nuisance.
If the building's owner fails to comply with a city-issued notice and order to rehabilitate, the new law states, the city and community groups may ask the court to appoint a receiver to rehabilitate the property or sell it to someone who can.
The suit asks the courts to give control of the houses -- one at 1719 E. Eager St. vacant since 1983 and one at 1737 E. Eager St. vacant since 1988 -- to the Middle East Community Organization.
The suit marks the first time the city has taken action based on the amended law, which took effect last fall.
No hearing date has been set for the case, but city officials say they are already looking for other vacant properties that might be transferred to non-profit developers for rehabilitation.
"This new law gives us a powerful new tool to help remove the scar of vacant houses from our neighborhoods," Mr. Schmoke said in a prepared statement.
It also shows a new way that the city can use innovative partnerships to tackle "one of the most stubborn problems facing the city," said Robert Hearn, the city housing commissioner.
"We will work closely with the Middle East community and the Community Law Center . . . to see that the buildings are rehabilitated," he said.