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Baltimore Battles Blight Caused By Abandoned Houses

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Hundreds of city-owned abandoned properties listed for sale under the "Vacants to Value" program in Baltimore.
Cathy Duchamp
Hundreds of city-owned abandoned properties listed for sale under the "Vacants to Value" program in Baltimore.

Baltimore has more housing than people. The result: blight. The city is now making a concerted effort to get rid of abandoned homes that aren't worth saving, while preserving the ones that are in an effort called the "Vacants to Value" program.

Housing Department Deputy Commissioner Julie Day likes to joke that when people left Baltimore they forgot to take their houses with them. Now she's in charge of selling the homes worth saving.

"So it's a matter of designing some language that will say...'Unique Italinate structure waiting for someone with loving care to rehab,'" she says.

Day estimates there are 6,000 abandoned properties that can become neighborhood assets in a city that's been shrinking for decades.

Another 10,000 homes should be demolished, says Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano.

"It would be foolhardy to think that we're going to rehab every house, and build new houses on every lot. The city has lost a third of its population. So what we're looking at is other uses of space, of land, in this city," he says.

"Other uses" include community gardens, new playing fields and urban agriculture. Graziano says with the "Vacants to Value" program, Baltimore will be scaled back but more stable.


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