In Baltimore, dealing with vacant homes has been a complex and time-consuming challenge, with foreclosure proceedings lasting up to three years. The legal procedures in Maryland make this a cumbersome process, involving meticulous title searches to establish a property’s ownership history.
Each step in the journey of acquiring, renovating, and selling a vacant property necessitates multiple title searches, extending the timeline to four or five months. During this period, vacant homes become magnets for pests, criminal activities, and hazardous conditions.
A $225,000 Blockchain Project to the Rescue
Baltimore has taken a bold step to address this issue by embarking on a $225,000 blockchain project, approved by its spending board in December. The goal is to streamline and secure property records management. As part of this three-year pilot initiative, Medici Land Governance will record information for approximately 13,600 vacant properties on a blockchain platform, enhancing security and efficiency compared to the city’s existing system.
Interestingly, while blockchain technology has gained recognition for its role in verifying ownership of virtual real estate in platforms like Decentraland (MANA), it’s proving equally valuable for managing real estate in North America.
Baltimore’s solicitor, Ebony Thompson, anticipates that this innovative approach will eliminate the need for multiple title searches, enabling the city to expedite property certifications when transitioning to new developers and residents.
Unlocking a $9.3 Trillion Opportunity
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton once praised economist Hernando de Soto as the greatest living economist. De Soto emphasized in his bestselling book, “The Mystery of Capital,” that the time and cost governments invest in maintaining accurate real estate records are significant barriers to economic development, especially in the developing world.
He argued that well-established property rights systems played a pivotal role in the economic prosperity of developed nations. In 2016, Thompson Reuters Foundation reported De Soto’s estimate that providing property deeds to impoverished populations for their land, homes, and unregistered businesses could unlock $9.3 trillion in dormant assets, transforming them into capital for the world’s underprivileged. Smart contracts, by recording ownership and facilitating liquidity, could enable individuals to access lines of credit against their properties, offering a common path for new businesses to secure startup funds and scale.
Baltimore’s adoption of blockchain technology demonstrates its potential to address persistent property-related challenges and pave the way for economic empowerment, not only locally but also on a global scale.