Baltimore has 16,000 vacant homes; on any given night, there are an average of 3,000 homeless people within the city limits. Putting those two facts next to each other begs an obvious question.
One Baltimore-area group profiled in the Atlantic this week is trying to turn some of Baltimore’s vacants into permanent affordable housing for the homeless. The idea has the potential to benefit a lot of different groups. Vacant housing tends to drag down the value of nearby properties, so having those structures rehabbed and occupied would be good for neighbors. Furthermore, the housing-first model of combatting homelessness has shown that providing homeless people with housing can lead to serious improvements in other areas. Considering that affordable housing in the city is declining, it’s extra important to find a way to house the city’s low-income residents before they get priced out of urban neighborhoods.
“Clearly there’s a moral crisis when you see so many people in need of homes and there’s such a glut of vacant ones,” United Workers organizer Rachel Kutler told the Atlantic.
Of course, such projects are easier said than done. For one, converting vacants to long-term housing for the homeless would require money. And then there are the traditional buyers of vacant housing — developers — who’d rather rehab a block of vacants than turn them over to the homeless.
But as Housing Our Neighbors’s examination of the McEldery Park neighborhood has shown, a good chunk of vacant houses are city-owned, which might streamline the process of turning them into housing for the homeless. It’s an appealing idea; to follow its progress, stay tuned to the United Workers website.
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