Small Decline in Vacant Houses

“Small Decline in Vacant Houses.” The Sun (1837-1988). April 11, 1973.


Small Decline in Vacant Houses

The results of the most recent survey of vacant houses in Baltimore are somewhat encouraging, if it is borne in mind that all conditions are relative in dealing with urban problems. According to the city Department of Housing and Community Development’s block-by-block canvass, Baltimore has 5,457 vacant houses, which is 200 fewer than three years ago. The city’s total can be compared with 6,500 or more vacant houses in Newark, at least 12,000 in Detroit, 38,000 in Philadelphia and from 50,000 to 100,000 in New York.

Of the city’s vacant dwellings,, nearly all are in the inner city and nearly all are rowhouses. Only 39 are judged to be in good condition, and 810 are considered in too poor shape to be salvable. But in between these two extremes are more than 4,600 houses which could be made livable with varying degrees of effort. The HCD has surveyed both the condition of the houses and the condition of the blocks in which they stand, since the quality of neighboring houses serves to determine the wisdom of heavy expenditures to restore.one that is rundown and abandoned.

The city owns and plans to demolish more than 1,000 of the vacant houses either for various public projects or for health and safety reasons. The city plans to acquire another 771 currently in private hands for similar reasons. Another 319 are to be rehabilitated by the Housing Authority. This reduces the number of vacant houses for which there are no plans to 3,324, most of them in private hands but 654 in the city’s possession as a result of tax sales. Given the money and the motivation, Baltimore’s vacant-house problem is not so overwhelmingly large as to be insoluble. If the number of abandonments is declining, and the economics of inner-city housing is improving, sound public policy dictates trying to save as much of the existing housing stock as possible.