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City houses to be demolished Print E-mail
Friday, 15 September 2006

City officials approved a plan yesterday to spend $10.7 million to tear down more than 400 housing units in some of Baltimore's most neglected neighborhoods.

Though many of the projects are under way, supporters said the city's financial commitment will jump start the effort by paying for the purchase and demolition of residential properties - most of which are vacant - that can then be combined into larger parcels that are easier to develop.

From Poppleton to Cherry Hill, the demolitions are expected to begin this fall and will be paid for from an affordable-housing fund created last year as part of negotiations over a city-funded convention hotel. City officials hope the demolitions will spark private development of affordable housing.
"There's no way a private developer is going to jump into a patchwork and say, 'OK, I'll do every other house in the block,'" said Christopher Shea, deputy commissioner for development for the city's housing department. "We have the ability to go in and completely acquire large parcels of land."

The affordable-housing program was created last year as the City Council debated a plan to build a $305 million hotel. Several council members said they could not support a major downtown development unless money was set aside for neighborhoods.

Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a community organization, lobbied for the creation of the fund as a compromise.

"It takes us beyond the Inner Harbor into very crucial neighborhoods that we need to revitalize and change," said Council President Sheila Dixon, who voted to support the spending yesterday. "This is going to be very beneficial to [show] that the focus is not just on downtown. We care about our neighborhoods."

Last year, the city directed $10 million in budget surplus to the fund, and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said he will use a mix of federal grants and loans to continue the program. Money received by the city through a revenue-sharing arrangement it has with the Hyatt Regency Baltimore has also been reserved for the fund, Shea said.


Edwina Baniqued

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