Battling Baltimore’s blight…

Governor pledges $75 million to demolish vacant homes.

Governor Larry Hogan stood on a blighted street in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore, a demolition crew ready to get to work. He had heard residents’ calls for action on the vacant rowhouses that pockmark the city, he said. Now he was pledging $75 million to tear thousands of them down.

“I’m a guy on a mission who wants to get things done and wants to get them done now,” Hogan said that day in January 2016.

The Republican governor laid out Project CORE: a plan to demolish entire blocks of abandoned houses at a time. He would put the Maryland Stadium Authority in charge of the work. The authority, experienced in contracting, sought a firm to oversee the demolition of 4,000 units over four years.

Eighteen months later, the stadium authority had spent just $5 million on the effort, the state says. Only 131 houses had been demolished. Baltimore has more than 16,000 vacant houses, the city says.

With plans to tear down more buildings mired in the city’s system for approving properties for demolition, the state is turning money over to community organisations to jump-start redevelopment projects instead. And the way officials describe their goals has changed: Now they speak not of demolitions, but of “units of blight removed.”

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