Cost to demolish Baltimore's vacants: $180 million
Here's a figure to chew on: $180 million -- the city's estimate for how much it would cost to tear down all the abandoned homes in Baltimore.
That comes from a new Government Accountability Office report on vacancy, which looks at the effects in select cities nationwide. (Hat tip to colleague John Fritze for noticing.)
"Officials in Baltimore, Detroit, and Chicago, in particular, stated that the resources required to demolish the large number of long-term vacant properties in those cities exceeds local budgets," the GAO wrote, adding: "Baltimore officials estimated that the city would need approximately $180 million to demolish the inventory of unsafe, unattended properties in the city."
About 16,000 properties in the city have been slapped with vacant building notices, indicating that they are not only empty but also unsafe or uninhabitable. About 22 percent are city-owned, according to Baltimore's housing agency.
Baltimore has long struggled to find a solution to this vexing problem. Martin O'Malley tried acquiring vacants through his Project 5000 effort while he was mayor. Successor Sheila Dixon thought a land bank would help. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched her own program, Vacants to Value, in hopes that targeted code enforcement, buyer incentives and a new attempt at streamlining the process of selling city-owned vacants are the answers.
Trying to find $180 million to just tear everything down hasn't been offered up in any plans I've seen, but readers have certainly talked about the idea.
MrRational suggested last year, "Bundle the titles for entire city blocks. Raze nearly every one of them. Cart off all the debris. Plan rerouting of pipes and streets. Keep 50% (or more) as grassy and parky. Auction off the rest to developer types...carefully and s l o w l y as each successive (and successful) project will make the next auction price higher."
Robert Dashiell wrote, "Baltimore ran a demolition derby during the Schmoke administration, led by then HCD Commissioner, Dan Henson. Then, as now, the better use of available funding would be to use it for renovation. The best chance many inner city resident have to live in decent houses in their neighborhoods and communities, as opposed to relocation, is if existing houses are rehabilitated."
What do you think? (And on a related note, can Baltimore expand by 10,000 families over the next 10 years as Rawlings-Blake hopes?)