A rock hurled through a storm door has once again raised questions about where Baltimore’s mayor, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, actually lives.
Last Thursday, WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller revealed the rock-throwing incident with an unusual twist.
Police reported that the damaged house on East Madison Street is inhabited by a couple subsequently identified as the mayor’s daughter and son-in-law – and not by Young, who lists the property as his “principal residence” in official city and state documents.
A similar question of residency arose in 2010 when Young was named City Council president following the forced resignation of then-mayor Sheila Dixon.
Back then, Young took reporters to a condominium he co-owned with his sister, Cynthia Young, on the 900 block of North Central Avenue. Pulling out a bedroom dresser drawer, he demanded, “You want to see my damn underwear?”
The display of his undies effectively quashed media questions about his city residency until now.
Here are some key questions raised by official documents about where Young lives – and how the mayor has reduced his property tax burden by misrepresenting his primary residence.
What the Record Shows
There is no doubt that Young and his wife Darlene own the rowhouse he lists as his principal residence on the 1500 block of East Madison Street.
But just as clearly, they don’t live there – Young admitted as much to Fox 45 News reporter Shelley Orman before he, quite literally, slammed the door of his city vehicle in her face last Friday.
“That’s my primary residence, ma’am. I own that property, and my daughter is living in my property and I can stay there anytime I want. That’s my primary residence. You only get one primary residence, and that’s the one I chose,” he told Orman.
But property owners don’t get to arbitrarily choose what property they claim as their principal residence. Instead, they must designate a principal residence that fits the definition of the law.
The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation in 2007 requiring homeowners to submit a one-time application for the “homestead tax credit,” which limits the assessment increase on which a homeowner must pay property taxes in a given year.
The law states that the owner must live in a property for at least six months of the year to claim it as a principal residence eligible for the tax credit. The only exceptions are for an owner who is temporarily unable to live in the residence “by reason of illness or need of special care.”
Online records show that Young applied for homestead tax credits both for the East Madison Street and North Central Avenue properties. The North Central Avenue application was denied, but the East Madison Street application was approved on April 2, 2008.
Over $3,000 in Tax Credits
Since then, Young has claimed homestead tax credits on the East Madison Street property. Those homestead tax credits have added up.
In the last three tax years alone, Young has received a $3,044 reduction in his property taxes from the credits, The Brew has found.
Here is the online summary of his property-tax bill for current (2019-20) tax year:
Young had a total bill of $1,652 (based on a $70,000 assessment of the Madison Street property), which was then reduced by $1,254 in state, city and special tax credits – all designed to benefit homeowners and homeowners only.
As a result, Young paid only $396.40 in property taxes (including a $1.60 reduction by paying his bill early).
76% tax cut this year
That is a 76% reduction in property taxes that he would have been required to pay had he notified the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) that the building was occupied by non-owner occupants like his daughter and her husband.
Taxpayers are required to notify the state agency if a residential property is not the owner’s principal residence, as noted by this online reminder:
Under perjury rules, SDAT requires applicants to declare that their homestead tax application is “true, correct and complete” and “this property is my principal residence for the prescribed period.”
A person who falsely answers questions on the form can be punished by a fine of up to $5,000, as many as 18 months in jail or both, according to the online form signed by applicants:
If Mayor Young does live full-time at the North Central Avenue condo, as he and his spokesman implied to reporters last week, he can reapply for a homestead tax credit after surrendering his claim to a tax credit at Madison Avenue.
But future tax credits applied to the North Central condo would likely be lower than those the mayor presently gets because the condo has a lower assessment ($62,600 versus $70,000) than the Madison property and has not risen in value like the latter building.
What’s more, any tax credits on the North Central condo would supposedly have to be shared with Young’s sister, who co-owns the property.
Failure to Follow Rental Law
Under Young’s leadership, the City Council approved a law on August 1, 2018 requiring all Baltimore rental properties to be licensed annually by the housing department.
Included in the mandatory registration are dwellings, such as Young’s property on East Madison Street, that are not rentals, but are not owner-occupied.
No rental registration of the East Madison Street property has been recorded for years 2018 and 2019.
Under subtitle 4-2 of the law (incorporated in Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code), every owner of a non-owner-occupied dwelling unit – “whether occupied or vacant, whether it is producing revenue or not producing revenue, whether habitable or not habitable” – must file an online registration statement with the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) every January 1 beginning in 2019.
The law also requires the property to be inspected by a state-licensed, city-registered home inspector.
A search of online HCD records shows that neither registration nor inspection has been recorded for Young’s Madison Street property for 2018 or 2019.
UPDATE: The Brew today asked the mayor’s office for comment on the property’s apparent lack of registration. Spokesman Lester Davis emailed back that “the mayor doesn’t operate any rental units.” The Brew is seeking further clarification since the law requires all non-owner-occupied houses to register.
Failure to register such properties “could result in a $1,000 fine,” notes HCD’s online description of the new law:
Voter and Ethics Forms
Young’s lack of transparency extends to his voter registration and ethics disclosure forms.
In both documents, the mayor lists the East Madison Street property as his home.
Submitting his latest ethics form with the city’s Ethics Board on April 29, 2019 – or four days before he was sworn in as Baltimore’s mayor – Young vouched for the accuracy of his statement, including the address of his principal residence:
TO REACH THIS REPORTER WITH TIPS: firstname.lastname@example.org