Home to about 2.8 million people, Maryland’s historic seaport and largest city is known for its world-famous Inner Harbor, renowned museums and attractions, and Chesapeake Bay cuisine. But not everything about the Charm City is so charming. Here are the pros and cons of living in Baltimore.
If you’re moving to Baltimore to go to college or be a professor, good on you! There’s plenty of higher education opportunities to make that happen. The city is packed with public and private universities and colleges, including the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Loyola University Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University. It’s also home to one of the best-ranked hospitals in the country, The Johns Hopkins Hospital which is the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s biomedical research facility and teaching hospital.
HBO’s ‘The Wire’ didn’t do Baltimore’s reputation any favors, but it’s real-life crime stats don’t either. The city is infamous for its very high crime rate. Due to Baltimore’s highest-ever per capita homicide rate in 2017, USA Today recently named the city the third most dangerous in America. Violent crime in the area is mostly drug and gang-related and is largely relegated to neglected, high-poverty neighborhoods like Sandtown-Winchester and Berea (where ‘The Wire’ was filmed). Like many parts of the country, Baltimore also struggles with police and civilian relations (see Death of Freddie Gray). Homelessness is another issue, due to lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, low incomes, and a lack of services. The city is making efforts to curb both violent crime and homelessness and improve police/civilian relations. Avoid bad areas and take the same personal safety precautions you would in big city.
Unemployment in Maryland is the lowest it has been in over a decade at 3.7%, which is lower than the national rate of 4%. Unemployment spiked in Baltimore county in 2010, and has been on the decline ever since. As of July 2019, the city’s unemployment rate was 5.6%. Opportunities abound in the city’s key industries: shipping, auto manufacturing, transportation, and steel processing. Also, according to Forbes magazine, Baltimore is emerging as one of the top cities for tech startups in the country.
Like any major metropolitan area, the traffic sucks in Baltimore. Download some podcasts and prepare to spend around 30 minutes commuting to and from work. Try to avoid rush hour on the outer loop of the Beltway and Interstates 695, 95 and 395. Work from home, or take public transportation if possible. The city is so walkable, you shouldn’t have to leave your neighborhood to run errands.
A middle-class family can comfortably afford to live downtown, which is more than most major cities can say. While it still ranks among the most expensive cities to live in, Baltimore is the best bargain on the East Coast when it comes to the cost of living and quality of life, with a median home price of $114,300.
Baltimore is considered a “politically independent city,” meaning that it is not part of the surrounding Baltimore County. Therefore, city taxes (3.2% income tax rate) are slightly higher than in the county (2.83% income tax rate). Property taxes are pretty hard on homeowners—with an average effective property tax rate of 1.65%, which is higher than any of Maryland's counties. However, the city does offer tax credits that help make owning a home more affordable, from Home Improvement to Dwelling on Cemetery.
Hope you like crab cakes, steamed crab, and crab soup! Beyond authentic Chesapeake Bay cuisine, the city is home to award-winning restaurants and chefs, a budding craft brew and cocktail scene, and tasty food festivals. Not to mention all the great public markets offering fresh local goods like Cross Street Market in Fed Hill. Whatever cuisine you choose, make sure to order a “Natty Boh,” which is what Baltimoreans call their OG brew, National Bohemian.
You can order booze by-the-drink at bars and restaurants, but you can’t buy packaged alcoholic beverages on Sundays. Prepare accordingly.