When we turn the calendar to 2012, the U.S presidential race will heat up. America's housing crisis is certain to be a hot campaign issue, and we will have no shortage of suggestions to stabilize communities—from expanded programs to purchase and redevelop vacant and foreclosed properties, to assistance to either buy a home or prevent foreclosure.
It seems counter-intuitive, but demolishing non-viable properties is critical to the solution. It's expensive. In Cleveland, Ohio alone, the cost to demolish unsalvageable properties is estimated to be $150 million. In Detroit, Chicago and other urban cities, it is probably higher.
But until the properties are demolished, neighborhoods hardest hit by the crisis won't recover. Property values will continue to decline. Prospective buyers won't invest until troubled properties, and the nuisances they bring, are gone.
An innovative pilot is currently in development in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland. Business and community leaders are working on a model to focus on entire neighborhoods, to demolish hopeless properties and repair salvageable ones to create affordable housing and protect property values.
The big question is whether this idea can work, and if so, can it be expanded across the country to help with the nation’s current housing crisis?