Regional and Urban Design Committee


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The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and public policy in the built environment. This will be achieved through its member and public education, in concert with allied community and professional groups. Join us!

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With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

  • 1.  With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

    Posted 09-17-2018 10:28


    Why abandoned housing isn't affordable housing

    By some estimates Baltimore has 40,000 abandoned vacant residential buildings, most of single family row homes. But like many other US cities, Baltimore also has a housing crisis, more specifically, an affordable housing crisis. There are as many people on a  waiting list for what used to be called "section 8" vouchers. (Now "Housing Choice"). It is no surprise that many people think that there should be simple ways to reconcile those two numbers. Particularly in Baltimore, people remember fondly a 1970s program called the "Dollar House Program" and suggest that such a program could house the poor and get rid of the vacant houses at the same time.
    Vacant houses in Baltimore (Vacants to Values)

    None of this is limited to Baltimore. In fact, although the federal  Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD) still has Dollar House program on the books,  vacant houses are a persistent problem in many American cities and towns. Nationwide there are 12 million according to a report of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, especially in the "legacy cities" where population is stagnant or shrinking. This should serve as proof that solving housing problems isn't quite as simple as matching those who seek affordable housing and with abandoned housing stock.

    An equal number of available "rooftops" and number of people looking for housing doesn't solve a problem even if defenders of a pure market economy would expect a big demand triggering a larger supply and expect some kind of balance to come about by itself. But even the largest demand and the slimmest profit margin doesn't change the basic fact that in market-rate housing....

    Read full article HERE 

    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD

  • 2.  RE: With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

    Posted 09-19-2018 10:46

    There are many abandoned houses all across the United States.  Unfortunately, the costs of rehabilitation more often than not do not generate a return on investment.  When the cost of a new kitchen and bathroom are more than the value of the house, affordable housing will never happen without some sort of substantial subsidy – and I see no political will or interest in that.  This nation has lost its sense of community, as well as seeing or sharing the value of the common good.




    Richard Leonori, AIA

    Partner ext. 3012

    hemmler + camayd architects


    409 Lackawanna Avenue, Suite 400

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  • 3.  RE: With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

    Posted 09-20-2018 17:32
    There are hardly any vacant houses left in Utica, NY. This is a rustbelt city that lost about half its population in the last four decades.
    But the City has welcomed refugees, in fact thousands of them.  Vacant houses were made available so refugee families could
    rebuild them. A cooperative Building Inspection department gave them time to get to code compliance. The cost of bathrooms and kitchens was not extraordinary, because of donations, the recycling market, and ReStore make that possible.  Buffalo NY is now following in their footsteps.
    There may be many other such cities. The city now has many more customers, voters,  and civic participants.  This is the way to go.
    Don't despair with the tried and true, try something new!

    And now we have cities all over learning how to build 350 to 400 sq ft tiny homes. I'm part of that. It appears to be a solution fo homeless ness, but probably not for families with children.

    Richard Rosen AIA
    Chief Architect
    Mark IV Enterprises
    Rochester NY

  • 4.  RE: With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

    Posted 09-21-2018 19:06

    That sounds like an outstanding program Richard.  Can you provide a link to get more information; it may be of interest to any community that has vacant housing stock.


    Michael F. Malinowski FAIA


  • 5.  RE: With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

    Posted 09-19-2018 22:41
    No jobs, forget about surplus housing. What is so confusing about that?

    Bryan Grunwald AIA
    Bryan Grunwald Associates
    Oakland CA

  • 6.  RE: With so many vacant houses, why is there still a housing crisis?

    Posted 09-24-2018 20:19
    There are an increasing number of 'Land Banks' in many cities that acquire blighted and vacant properties at tax foreclosure (every state has different legislation, and sometimes they operate from within City government, but more often separate non profit quasi organizations). Then they clear title and reposition the property, and then sell--generally for affordable housing. These Land Banks have existed for a long time, but they increased after the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

    This organization 'specializes' in the research and support of such organizations Center for Community Progress: Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places | Center for Community Progress
    Here is a map of all the landbanks:

    Anne Haynes AIA
    Houston Land Bank
    Houston TX