Fighting the foreclosure fight -- or withdrawing
The goals include brainstorming new strategies and sharing "game-changing solutions" that can more speedily get vacant homes re-occupied.
The event -- sponsored by Living Cities, HUD and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University -- is interesting in part because it's not simply bringing together local government administrators. Each place represented (described as "12 of the regions hit hardest by the housing crisis," from South Florida to Los Angeles) sent a team made up of nonprofits and real estate firms as well as government officials.
Detroit -- exceedingly hard-hit -- is not on the list. But leaders there are considering a doozy of a game-changer.
Razing. Razing across the board.
After decades of decline that gutted many once-vibrant neighborhoods, Detroit is preparing a radical renewal effort on a scale never attempted in this country: returning a large swath of the city to fields or farmland, much like it was in the middle of the 19th century. Under plans now being refined, demolition crews would move through the most desolate and decayed areas of urban Detroit with building-chomping excavators, reducing houses to rubble.
Tearing down en masse has been suggested in Baltimore, too. Though the city's situation is not as desperate as Detroit's, it has thousands of long-vacant, abandoned houses, and streets where boarded-up properties outnumber the occupied ones.
Frequent commenter MrRational has on several occasions advocated for a tear-down approach: "There are large tracts of properties in the city described as 'homes' that have no legitimate reason to remain standing," he wrote on this post in September. "The bureaucratic inertia and legalities which allow this can't continue to be tolerated."
Should Baltimore follow Detroit's proposed example? Or is that medicine worse than the disease?(Tip of the hat to colleague -- and Consuming Interests blogger -- Liz Kay, who thought this would make for an interesting discussion.)