Apr 25, 2016
A 69-year-old Baltimore man died in March, when a vacant house he was parked next to collapsed. The following week, four vacant houses collapsed in high winds.
Baltimore, like many older cities, has thousands of vacant houses – about 16,000 or more, with about another 14,000 vacant lots. Altogether thousands of vacant houses are on a list to be demolished.
Simply tearing down all these houses, rather than rehabilitating or replacing them, is a preparation for the city to sell the cleared land to developers. The developers are interested in maximizing their profits by building as much “market rate” housing as they can. “Market rate” is simply a term for expensive.
The demolition of thousands of houses will be just another step in driving more poor and working class people out of the city so that more professionals, business people and rich folks can move in.
And yet there is a huge need for decent, low-cost housing for ordinary people to buy or rent. There are also tens of thousands of people unemployed in the city, many of them living in the same neighborhoods where there are many vacant houses.
It’s obvious that a program to hire and train thousands of them would be useful. They could build new low-cost housing on empty lots – and rehabilitate, or tear down and replace, existing vacant houses. This would accomplish three things at once: getting rid of decrepit houses; providing decent, low-cost housing and giving thousands of unemployed people jobs.
But in a society where profit is king, what is useful is rarely what’s done.
How different this could be if the working class put itself in a position to address these problems. Then wealth and other resources could actually be used in a humane fashion to provide decent housing and all the other things we all need.