Nation Can Learn From Philadelphia's Housing Struggles

<p>Philadelphia has struggled to deal with its large supply of derelict housing, and it serves as a lesson for lawmakers when they try to find ways to stop neighborhoods from deteriorating.</p>
June 28, 2008, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Supporters say local governments need federal money to help them prevent homes from being left vacant, an invitation to crime and blight. But the White House said Thursday that the main beneficiaries would be lenders stuck with foreclosed homes they can't sell."

"One point is being missed in this squabble: No matter what Congress does, some cities will end up owning more crumbling houses as owners fail to pay taxes and do their maintenance. Taxpayers will foot the bill. The bigger question is: How can cities quickly get this property back into productive use?"

"For perspective on this debate, it helps to stroll through Philadelphia's Ludlow neighborhood, about a mile north of the city center."

"When Carl Greene became executive director of the housing authority in 1998, he toured some of the 8,000 or so single-family homes then owned by the agency. Some homes had become "crack" houses used by drug dealers. Others were what he calls "jack houses" -- ones so rickety that their floors had to be held up by jacks. The agency lacked the money or expertise to manage so much property."

"Over the past decade, Mr. Greene's agency has knocked down hundreds of jack houses, renovated others and built new homes for sale or rent to low-income people. But it has been a long slog, and the housing authority still owns around 1,000 vacant single-family homes."

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Published on Thursday, June 26, 2008 in The Wall Street Journal
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