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Mayor: McCabe Rehab Shows Vacants to Value Success

The rehab of homes on McCabe Avenue represents years of work to rehab blight in the area.

On a dreary rainy and cold Tuesday morning in Woodbourne-McCabe, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the renewal work in the neighborhood is proof of the success of her Vacants to Value program.

"Six decades of disinvestment left this city with vacant properties in nearly every community, and we needed to find a new market driven approach to eliminate blight that would create new homeownership opportunities and stimulate growth throughout the city," Rawlings-Blake said. "For those who question the impact of my Vacants to Value initiative, all they need to do is come to the 600 block of McCAbe to see the work that is going on."

Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake is in the process of rehabbing 21 homes in the 600 and 700 blocks McCabe Avenue, which community groups had long lobbied to see demolished or fixed. The official kick off of the project comes more than a year after the city demolished properties on the block that could not be rehabbed.

Rawlings-Blake cited changes in the Housing Department in 2010 that she said reduced bureaucracy and made it easier for groups such as Habitat for Humanity to connect homeowners with homes as proof of the program’s success. 

"We don’t gain anything by investing in bureaucracy, by investing in status quo we don’t gain anything," Rawlings-Blake said. "In fact, when we put up road blocks for groups like Habitat for Humanity we’re not just frustrating the groups that want to do better, but also the neighbors who deserve better."

Monica Gaines, president of the Woodbourne-McCabe Community Association, said it had been a long fight to address the blight on the block that has often been a drag on the community’s reputation.

"In this project one of my first challenges as president of this community was faced to me by Neighborhood Housing Services, and they said 'Monica we have some houses coming that we want to do in your area. How are we going to sell these $100 almost $200,000 homes in this community?'" Gaines said. "I said 'Oh just change the name of McCabe to Alhambra Parkway or something [laughter]. Because we all know reputation sometimes doesn’t play well."

But Gaines said that changing the names would take away memories and that the community is trying to build new, positive memories for the next generation that will call McCabe home.

Kisha Gladden, one of the first owners of a rehabbed home on McCabe Avenue, is a single mother of three, works full time and attends college. Gladden said she was excited to become part of a reborn community.

"I don’t know who is more excited is it me or was it my children? They’re eager to move into our new home and to have the first opportunity to have their very own rooms," Gladden said.  

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Baltimore Matt November 14, 2012 at 12:43 AM
SRB, gee we have rehabbed 1 block, that is all of maybe 45 or 50 house, a number that really takes a bite out of the 20,000 homes that are boarded up in this city, I bet in the time that you spent planning and showing up for this event, 45 homes became vacant. SRB we don't need housing. We are not going to get the 10,000 new households until we create 30,000 new jobs (20,000 are going to live in the county where taxes are lower and where they are less likely to live next to blight & crime). We need fewer houses and more commercial and industrial growth, not housing. If housing was so successful we would not have a vacants to values program. It's time for this city to reexamine where it stands on business friendly policies such as creating permanent policies on business taxes, commercial investment, zoning & land use, building permits, and property taxes. Without these changes to the business climate we are only going to get families that are liabilities rather than assets to this city (and believe me, with a 25% poverty rate we can not afford any more liabilities).
Bill Miller November 14, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The rehab of housing needs to be strategic and in this case the rehab of 21 houses in a neighborhood's blighted donut hold will save hundreds of houses in the surrounding neighborhood, It is really an important development. Many other things need to be done in Baltimore, especially to encourage small business development and to educate and train people for higher wage jobs, but Baltimore Matt's either or approach simply will not work. It is the optimists that are going to succeed in turning Baltimore around for the better. Fortunately, there are many of us.
Sean Tully November 14, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I'll have to take a drive over there soon to get a better idea of what's happening. Off the top of my head I'd say this is a very slow way of rehabbing the city and attracting new residents. I say, and have said before, we should give these house away to people who will fix them up and stay in them for 10 years or so. I think we'd see much faster progress that way.
Baltimore Matt November 15, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Bill, I am a bit of an optimist that lives in this city as well, however, cities do not grow because of the creation or renovation of housing. Housing grows itself with demand that is sparked by a need of living in close proximity of industry (aka jobs). Sure there is work that should be done to help save marginal neighborhoods from becoming worse but that should not be the mayors answer to eliminating 20,000 vacant homes. High levels of demand due to commercial and industrial growth is what builds neighborhoods. We should keep that in mind the next time someone wants to build condos on our city's deep water industrial seaport (one that is an envy of most American cities) or when we block the building of large commercial/industrial business developments, all we are doing is ensuring that we will keep our 25% poverty rate, blighted neighborhoods (because without good jobs, those nicely rehabbed blocks are not going to be properly rebuilt or maintained)
Leona MacDonald November 15, 2012 at 12:16 PM
I agree with Sean. They aren't making money for the city sitting empty. Give them away. There are plenty of folks who have the money and the ability to fix them up.

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