According to a local report, the city is plagued with thousands of abandoned houses and buildings. About 160 are currently slated for demo.
A city spokesperson said that by ordering a dramatic number of demos at one time, the cost per demo comes down. They also say the plan will create jobs.
The mayor himself sat at the helm of one bulldozer. He explained to reporters that the money for the project came from a sales tax increase approved by voters last month.
Local residents told reporters they were happy to see the old buildings come down into vacant lots. Police have blamed abandoned structures for encouraging crime, including drug activity and prostitution.
While the mayor says the plan will affect properties throughout the city, the initial phase appears to be concentrated in predominantly minority neighborhoods.
Removal of the structures leaves open the question of what to do with the privately-owned, now-vacant lots. Some residents have suggested that these lands be turned into parks, or community gardens. Others have criticized the plan as a lost opportunity. They say restoring the properties rather than destroying them would create locals jobs, and a source for new affordable housing.
Local police are also calling for criminal charges against owners of blighted properties, according to the report. A spokesman told reporters his department receives calls daily, and says the callers’ main concern is for the public’s safety. He showed reporters an example of such a property in which he indicated there are signs of prostitution activities.
Police say there are thousands of outstanding housing warrants, according to the report.
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