When eight vacant houses fell down amid windy weather last month, including one collapse that killed a man, Baltimore officials said they might have to tighten up the standards they use when judging whether an unoccupied rowhouse is dangerous.
But Baltimore houses have been going vacant – and blowing down – for decades, and city government’s phlegmatic response to the emergency demolitions is just part of its overall disconnect with the reality of the problem.
For one thing, the official count of 17,000 vacants vastly under-counts them, as Baltimore Brew reporter Mark Reutter explained in a conversation with WYPR’s Tom Hall aired yesterday on Maryland Morning.
Using the estimates by the U.S. Postal Service disclosed in the 2010 census (addresses where no mail was delivered for 90 days or more), Reutter estimates the number is closer to 50,000.
How did Baltimore get this way? Are the programs coming out of City Hall and Annapolis comprehensive enough – and well funded enough – to tackle the problem? Why have past efforts to rehab and rebuild Baltimore’s vast zones of dilapidation and depopulation failed?
Reutter puts the vacants problem in historical context and discusses solutions, including “a real commitment to involve local communities.”
“If Baltimore is ‘a city of neighborhoods,’ as everyone says, then the neighborhoods have to be involved,” he said.
“We lost the city block-by-block, and we can only reclaim the city by working block-by-block.”