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An Abandoned Way of Life

Updated on January 8, 2013

I wanted to tell you all about a conversation I had with a student this morning about abandoned houses. This intelligent young women thinks that abandoned homes in the cities are all home foreclosures. They are not. They are homes from the 50's and 60's abandoned by slum lords. We cannot fix the problem if we do not understand how it came about. She came from the suburbs and is having her first taste of urban problems. Rehabbing these buildings in cities in the US are not an easy fix.
Anyone rehabbing these structures should be careful. They contain outlawed substances. Rehabbing them is a risk. For instance, lead stays in your body 25 years and settles in the brain. It has a quarter century to injury you.
Half of these buildings became empty in the Great Depression when factories closed all over the US and families were thrown in the streets. The other half were sold to landlords during the great migration to the suburbs. When blacks went north middle class whites were moving away. The housing shortage during this time frame (post WWII) made a need for new homes to be built and the Veterans Bill gave them the money to make the great building boom possible. These buildings are not taken down because historic preservation fights the tearing down of historic places. Many of these buildings are 100-170 years old.
When the economy was better( 80's/90's) 1,000's were rehabbed hoping whites would migrate back to US cities. Instead they became rentals. There used to be many more, thousands and thousands more!

So why are they not fixed up? The reasons are many. The cost issue is that they are full of asbestos and lead. Rehabbing or removing them all at once threatens the health of communities. Mass change can cause major health hazzards to near by residents. It's a national issue in every northern old city. In the 80's children started getting lead poisoning again at high rates. Landlords got hit with law suits.
Anyhow, please all understand that these are not all home foreclosures or any one particular mayor's fault. It's the Federal governments fault for giving billions to mutinational corporations why communities crumble. Consider how you can make change in your local community.
Joanne Kathleen Farrell


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