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These are abandoned houses in what would have been "lower middle class" neighborhoods ... "solid working class" or "battlers" in Ozzie terms.

AFAIU, the three to four million homeless this year is on top of the number that were made homeless last year and previously.

Average household size for the US is 2.59. Don't know if there is any systematic bias for the type of households bearing the brunt of the foreclosure crisis ... wouldn't be surprised if its larger, though.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 at 02:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess putting homeless people in abandoned homes instead of bulldozing those homes would be totally unacceptable in US society.  Otherwise, I could see a lot of advantages to a properly run system such as that.  There are a lot of socially useful functions that many of the currently homeless could perform if they had a fixed address and a roof over their heads.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 at 03:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's also a cash flow problem for a local community that wants to pursue this option ... these homes were often designed for cheapest construction costs rather than for the cheapest upkeep, after all, and putting homeless people in the abandoned homes places another financial burden on communities that are facing declining tax bases on top of the impacts of the recession.

It occurs to me, after frequently riding by a failed medium box retailer in town, that it might well be easier to create financially affordable shelters inside a failed medium box retail building, sheltered from the elements ... indeed, if combined with community truck gardens, the front part could sell community grown fresh produce, while the back part has shelters that can be rented with part of the income from working in the community garden and other local community work.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 at 04:45:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maintenance is a problem, and consolidating the footprint is a good thing.  But when we have families that are homeless because they couldn't afford an exorbitant mortgage, but who still qualify for un-employment and welfare and who still have a car, placing them in viable abandoned or foreclosed properties on condition of basic maintenance might be a good option.  Some may be able to provide child care for others who might find permanent, part time or occasional work.  Provision of home health care, transportation, shopping, etc. for the elderly, with appropriate supervision, could be a possibility.  The idea would be to pay the equivalent of rent in useful social services that would otherwise be unaffordable.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 at 07:19:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These homes cost a dollar, in many cases.

They are typically crack houses, homes of criminality.

My city has been bulldozing them by the thousands.

In order to save them, you would have to make them habitable again, build them, heat them, etc. Flint is in a cold climate, so is my city. It's obviously easier to care for the homeless in big buildings rather than heating indidvidual decrepit homes.

Our citizens groups and neighborhood alliances are largely in favor of bulldozing precisely because of safety issues.

Where did the people go?

To the suburbs.

This is a problem in America. The cities emptied as people moved out. now we have new builds wa out in exurbia, while the first ring suburbs are emptying quickly. The first ring suburb around my city is like a moat on the boundaryline: no one lives there.

The USA has a decentralized political structure. There is no central planning. Cities incorporate townships which straddle two cities, all within a country government. We have multiple layers of government that would make your head spin, and none of them seem to plan things together.

In my town, I am represented by a council member overseeing my district of the city, and that council member works as a balance against the mayor and city Hall, but beyond that, I am represented by a County rep. who balances the county commissioner, and then within the council district, and the city borders, and the county borders, there are separate townships who also have forms of representation. We're talking about four layers of government before you even move to the state level. This is precisely why we have poor urban planning in the US, and why the very idea of abandoned homes is a reality.

You can buy the homes for $1 and maintain them yourself, but no one does.

$1!!!!

by Upstate NY on Thu Jun 18th, 2009 at 03:45:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, finding a way to buy homes for $1, and fix them up for multiple occupancy still leaves homes to be bulldozed, but if planned well would also leave a suburban village better positioned to stand up to the coming economic shocks.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 01:26:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You need a lot of money to do it, because the cost of maintaining a home has to be subsidized, and obviously, this cost, even for families without a mortgage, is really significant. Once you update a home and make it habitable, it's worth say $50-75k. Heat at $5k a year, electric at $1.5k, water, sewage and trash at $3k, property taxes another $3k. Another $1k in home insurance. You need $14k a year to simply maintain a home, and this doesn't cover maintenance!
by Upstate NY on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 03:20:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's $135/week if its split into two residences, or 17 hours at $8/hour, $90/week if its split into three, or 12 hours at $8/hour, plus the materials for the reconstruction and maintenance and the labor share that goes into that.

Evidently the system would require ongoing employment of some form in order to keep going, though the bulldozing of some neighborhoods would open up the possibility of truck gardening for some of that.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 05:09:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But we're talking about a homeless population, correct?

There is Section 8 housing all over my city, no shortage of it. If you do the math: welfare + section 8 housing, you come out ahead by going through the Feds.

I guess the Feds themselves could make these homes into Sec. 8, but in my area HUD always prefers big apartment buildings. I rarely see Sec. 8 homes.

by Upstate NY on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 06:30:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... population. Economically homeless, rather than the homeless populations created by the closure of long term mental care facilities and by family break-ups, often involving violence against women.

There's a certain amount that can be done by leveraging existing federal government programs. But obviously federal government programs are always designed with the objective of only taking care of a part of the problem at hand ... or at least, over the past thirty years they have been.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 06:41:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you've got to think about who the neighbours are, and the possibility that the house will still be worth $1 after it's fixed up.

There was a street of houses in Salford in the early 90's, I remember, where houses sold for a couple of hundred pounds.  They'd been a normal sort of price until a single antisocial family moved in, and terrorised the area. Everybody wanted out, nobody wanted in.

If $1 houses are available, and the homeless aren't buying them, there's likely to be a good reason.  I'd rather live in a relative's garage than take my children to live next door to a crack den, for instance.

by Sassafras on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 04:21:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... there aren't any neighbors. They all went to Phoenix or Florida or some such, or are living with family.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 19th, 2009 at 06:42:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm responding to UNY's scenario, where the $1 houses are crack dens, i.e. occupied. Those are the sort of neighbours I'm talking about.

If you can manage to start with a clean slate, occupant-wise, then what you suggest can be done. Up until a few years ago in the UK, tenants of social housing couldn't be evicted no matter how atrocious their behaviour, and there were cases where loutish families trashed entire neighbourhoods.  There was nothing, however, to stop councils knocking their own property down.  I do know of one gone-to-the-dogs street where a council applied (to itself) for permission to bulldoze the lot, rehoused all the tenants (the "problem families" going to the empty houses next door to other "problem families" elsewhere in the city) and then..."changed" its collective mind, did up all the houses and put in new tenants, turning a dangerous street into a sought-after one.

It worked. There are problems with it, obviously, insofar as somebody has to decide who are the deserving and undeserving poor. If it's applied solely to "families who have 200 other families living in fear of a brick though their window", then I think few would argue, but it's obviously a system open to prejudice and abuse.

(The other problem that tactic created (of concentrating social issues) no longer applies because councils are no longer required to house antisocial tenants, and such families are now simply evicted.  Where they go, I have no idea.  There were a couple of high profile evictions and the issue just slipped off the radar. )

by Sassafras on Sat Jun 20th, 2009 at 03:27:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are problems with it, obviously, insofar as somebody has to decide who are the deserving and undeserving poor.

That's never stopped British social workers...

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 20th, 2009 at 03:56:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it doesn't stop them.  But the whole UK benefit system, really, demands that you constantly prove you are "deserving". Assessments of needs, for instance, are just an extension of that culture.
by Sassafras on Sat Jun 20th, 2009 at 04:35:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... of a situation like Flint, Michigan, where there were already entire vacant neighborhoods before the foreclosure crisis began picking up steam.

And, of course, a cooperative buying the property would be under fewer restrictions on what who it will accept for membership than a city or town council.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jun 20th, 2009 at 02:30:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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