Fighting Foreclosure Blight With Demolition

<p>As foreclosures increase throughout the country, more cities are looking to solve the problem of abandoned and dilapidated houses with demolition.</p>
July 16, 2008, 1pm PDT | Nate Berg
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"Of the 129m housing units in America, 18.6m stand empty. At 2.9%, the home-owner vacancy rate, which measures the share of vacant homes for sale, has reached its highest point since measurement began in 1956. At the end of the first quarter there were 2.3m empty homes on the market, an increase of more than 160,000 from the end of 2007. There is a vicious circle: the huge number of houses on the market pushes home prices down, and as prices decrease, mortgages become harder to refinance, leading to more foreclosures, vacancies and so on. The more homes are on the market, the less chance that prices will stabilise."

"In cities such as Atlanta and Charlotte, formerly vibrant neighbourhoods have taken on the dilapidated air of ghost towns since the subprime crisis. Municipal taxes go unpaid, and boarded-up homes invite looting, drugs and other criminal activity. In one near-abandoned Atlanta neighbourhood, speculators who could not sell homes even paid homeless people to occupy them. Cleveland and Baltimore have filed lawsuits against subprime lenders this year, claiming their practices cost the cities millions of dollars in lost taxes because of lower property values. These cities are exploring another bold solution to the surplus of vacant houses: demolition."

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Published on Thursday, July 10, 2008 in The Economist
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