Some 41,000 properties have gone through the city’s tax sale since 2016, a Baltimore Banner investigation found, threatening home ownership and prolonging vacancies in majority-Black neighborhoods.

Arnita Owens-Phillips had always promised herself one thing: She would hold onto her simple brick rowhome in East Baltimore.

Her son Corey used to tell her when he was young that one day he’d buy her a big house in the city. “Cause I’m your boy,” she recalled him saying. “I’m going to take care of you.” Corey died at 17 when he was struck by a car, and yet his mother always felt he had fulfilled his promise: She used money received from a settlement inhis death to buy the home just south of Baltimore Cemetery.

“No matter how hard I had to struggle, I wasn’t going to move again,” said Owens-Phillips. “I felt like this was the house that my son bought me and wanted me to have.”

Then came the pandemic. She was forced to shut down her home daycare business, and her disability checks weren’t enough to cover the bills, especially her $2,000-a-year city property tax bill. She hoped that over time she’d be able to get caught up.