Pittsburgh, Detroit, and the Vacant Property Connection
This past January Pittsburgh was visited by officials from the Flint, Michigan based Center for Land Reform (it was one of 15 cities chosen) about how to deal with blight and abandoned properties; a month later the Mayor created a Land Recycling Task Force that would have two years to write a plan for abandoned properties.
This is interesting in that the Wall Street Journal reported that Flint’s much larger neighbor Detroit-it is not known if it was one of the 15 cities selected by the Center-is already taking action. It is planning to demolish some 3,000 buildings by September of this year as a way to adjust to its shrinking population. The Michigan city has over 90k vacant houses and lots according to one non-profit that tracks data for Detroit.
With 912k people, Detroit has 98 vacant units per 1,000 people. Pittsburgh is very close with 93 (29k vacant units and 310k people); Philly has 68, Cleveland 115, and St. Louis 107. As a percentage of total housing units, Pittsburgh has close to 1 out of every 5 classified as vacant.
Due to the possible problems that arise from vacant housing Detroit plans to demolish some 3,000 units by the end of September. Pittsburgh knocked down 566 in 2008 (about a fifth of what Detroit plans to do) by both City and private parties and the Act 47 team recommended that the City look to the best practices "for managing vacant structures and absentee landlords".