A screenshot from Fight Blight Bmore’s app, depicting a reported vacant and blighted property near southern edge of Druid Hill Park. (Screenshot by Technical.ly)

Nneka N’namdi recalled a moment in 2016 — well before the recent launch of her housing organization’s app — when she saw kids navigating an ungated demolition site comprising of four brownstones on West Baltimore’s Fremont Avenue.

There were no protective barriers or signage warning about the giant holes on the street where the basements use to be. She imagined all the ways it could go wrong.

What if the kids fell into a hole, or cut themselves playing in the debris and got tetanus? Why was this happening here when, if this were instead taking place downtown, she could guarantee a safe demolition with gates and signs identifying who was responsible for the area? All these thoughts led her to ask other questions: Why are there over 15,600 vacant properties in Baltimore, and why is demolition the go-to solution?

In the end, she ultimately wanted to answer how to stabilize housing outcomes in the city. In trying to answer that, she came up against a familiar hurdle: a lack of numbers.

“We’re saying what we need and what we want, but because we live in a data-driven society, we often didn’t have the data to back it up,” N’namdi explained to Technical.ly about what happened once she started getting into housing- and blighted communities-focused advocacy work. “I watched people get poo-pooed. I watched people have data presented in ways that pathologized Black people and the way that Black people live. I’m like, nah. We’re not about to do that.”

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