Grocery Store Incentive Area Personal Property Tax Credit – Baltimore, USA

Key Insights

  • Personal property tax incentive for grocery stores
  • Boosting commercial viability of food stores
  • Improving physical access to healthy food


As many as one in four Baltimore residents live in ‘food deserts’, yet high property taxes mean it makes little commercial sense to open grocery stores in those areas. In 2016 the city introduced the Grocery Store Incentive Area Personal Property Tax Credit, under which new stores (or existing stores making upgrades) benefit from an 80% credit against personal property tax, for 10 years. In its first two years the policy led to at least one new supermarket, enabling 5000 residents to access healthy food.


This case study version is from the Menu of Actions (2019). Suggested citation: Halliday, J., Platenkamp, L., Nicolarea, Y. (2019) A menu of actions to shape urban food systems for improved nutrition, GAIN, MUFPP and RUAF.

City planning in Baltimore, Maryland (USA), Shutterstock/Netsign33

The action and its aims

Baltimore introduced the Grocery Store Incentive Area Personal Property Tax Credit, under which new grocery stores opening in an identified food desert (aka ‘Healthy Food Priority Area’), or existing ones making upgrades, can benefit from an 80% credit against personal property tax for 10 years. The scheme is part of the Baltimore’s Food Desert Retail Strategy and was voted in as policy by the Baltimore City Council. The aim is to incentivise grocery operators in underserved areas of the city, improving residents’ physical access to food.

When it was introduced

The policy was introduced in 2016.

Why it was needed

It was needed because one in four Baltimore residents – and almost one in three children – live in food deserts; poor access to healthy food means they are at greater risk of diet-related ill-health. High property taxes affect the commercial viability of grocery stores, as profit margins tend to be very low.

Who initiated it, who is involved

The action was initiated by the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, a collaboration between the Department of Planning, the Office of Sustainability, the City Health Department, and the Baltimore Development Commission. Johns Hopkins University and the Department of Planning created the Food Environment Map for determining incentive areas.

Impacts to date

Between 2016 and early 2018 the policy resulted in the construction of at least one new supermarket in an area of East Baltimore, bringing access to healthy food to 5,000 residents.

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