My apologies to the Who.
Made a quick trip on the “other side” of North Avenue to see what was back there, more importantly how many abandoned homes there were, and who owns them. There are literally hundreds — I didn’t have time to document even a third of them, and I was very disappointed to find out most are owned by…the City of Baltimore.
With the number of people in the city who need affordable housing near public transit, all I could think was “What a waste.” And what a wasteland. I walked for blocks without coming across another person, yet I could tell there were probably people around — on E. 20th Street, for example, a lot of the houses are boarded/cinder-blocked in the front, but they’re open in the back — easily accessible for vagrants, drug dealers, and prostitutes.
Walking up Barclay Street was no better — we’ve already written about Barclay Street once, and this end is no better. This block of homes is owned by the City, except for two — and we suspect the City will own both of them soon enough.
Unfortunately, most of the houses I saw today are structurally unsound, open to the elements, and probably not worth saving. Which means they’ll have to be razed at some point, leaving swaths of open space owned by the City. It would be great to see some of the space preserved as open space for a parks, and perhaps some commercial space. This area is sorely lacking in any amenities, with most residents shopping at the Charles Village Safeway or the closest corner store. There is a plan in place to redevelop the area — hopefully the plan hasn’t been scrapped.
I really have to reiterate how shameful it is that our City is one of the biggest slumlords — there is no excuse for these properties to be in such disrepair. I also find it rather ironic that all of these blocks lie within the boundaries of the 12th City Council District, the former district of City Council President Jack Young. (Carl Stokes took over when Jack Young was named City Council President after Sheila Dixon got the boot.) Especially when you consider the bill Jack Young introduced to the City Council in 2010 — Bill 10-0516 Non-Owner-Occupied Dwellings and Vacant Structures. The idea is to raise the financial burden on slumlords in order to get them to comply with the law. How will the City deal with its negligence? That’s what we’d like to know — the City can’t fine itself, or take itself to court. There is one thing that makes sense — fire those in charge of our city’s housing stock and hire people who are capable of making hard decisions, and making the right changes to the system — changes that are sustainable over the long term. Clearly the current leadership is failing. Redevelopment plan or no redevelopment plan — these houses didn’t fall into disrepair in a matter of weeks, months, or even just a few years. Someone fell asleep at the wheel a long time ago, and the agencies involved need to be revamped, from the top down.