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Managing Abandoned Homes in North Braddock

The usual litany of Rust Belt woes hit North Braddock, Pennsylvania particularly hard. The Pittsburgh suburb has shed two-thirds of its population and is burdened with 350 abandoned properties.
January 23, 2016, 5am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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David Wilson

Next to Detroit's legendary depopulation, the loss of twelve thousand residents seems minuscule. But for North Braddock it means a population down two-thirds and a dangerous accumulation of abandoned homes. Nafari Vanaski spoke to residents and officials about their long struggle with the problem.

Dave Andrews, a code enforcement officer, faces an uphill battle finding the owners of ramshackle rental properties, let alone compelling them to repair. "He's in court about twice a month trying to get people to fix their homes or pay the fine. Usually, those trips are fruitless, and he hears about it from frustrated residents. 'They think I'm not doing my job because nothing gets done.'"

Desperate for funds to properly dispose of abandoned structures, North Braddock considered welcoming the natural gas industry. Vanaski writes, "Officials were ready to consider the idea, but many residents turned up at the next council meeting to reject it, for reasons ranging from opposition to fracking to the possibility they might lose the view from their house as the work proceeded."

According to borough manager Doug Marguriet, "It should be national policy … to do something about all these old industrial towns by eliminating blight. Then you give the markets a chance to revitalize. But if you don't get rid of the blight, nothing's going to happen. You can't build new houses in the midst of blight."

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Published on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in Belt Magazine
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