Foreclosures and abandonment
Baltimore's housing commissioner, Paul T. Graziano, noted this week that he wishes the city got more than $5.8 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars to acquire and fix up bank-owned properties. It's a common refrain across the country, even from cities that got ten times that amount, because pretty much everyone is feeling overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.
City officials are estimating that $5.8 million will cover the cost of buying and rehabbing about 80 units, some to be resold to homeowners and some to be rented out. (That estimate is counting on money coming back into the pot from the resold units and allowing more work to be done.) But more than 2,700 city homes were sold at foreclosure auctions in 2009 alone, and hundreds (if not thousands) more are in danger of following suit.
I had a story about the program this week -- and about the fact that it's taken a long time (in a non-bureaucracy sense of the word) to get it off the ground -- but didn't have space to go into one of Graziano's points. It's an interesting one, namely that Baltimore probably would have fared a lot better if general vacancy and abandonment played a bigger role in how the federal government apportioned the $3.9 billion in stabilization money. (Vacancy is one factor, but foreclosure starts counted for more.)
"We have a lot of vacancies, probably more than most any other cities in the country -- proportionally or otherwise," Graziano said. "I'm happy in many ways that we don't have as many foreclosures [as some cities], but it's still a challenge. And the other vacancies are contributing significantly to our challenges."
A down note to start 2010, I know. Here's to a better new year than the old one.