US cities innovate efficient & green ways to fight blight

Cities from Detroit to Philadelphia are increasingly finding novel techniques to fight blight.

Detroit deployed more than 150 residents, survey software in hand, to document the most extensive census of vacant land that has ever been conducted in a U.S. city. Now the land bank in Detroit is trying to strategically auction abandoned homes worth salvaging, as the city prioritizes neighborhoods with the best chance of recovery.

The scope of the problem, made even more apparent after the foreclosure crisis, is enormous in former industrial hubs where the population has been dwindling for decades. When Detroit took stock of its blight last year, it counted nearly 85,000 structures and abandoned lots in need of intervention.

Philadelphia has some 40,000 vacant parcels, Cleveland 20,000. Baltimore has more than 16,000 homes that are still standing but abandoned.

Many of their successful strategies — greening lots, planting gardens, creating land banks, auctioning homes — are replicable from one city to the next.

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