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Quora Answer : What are some ways to reverse the urban blight that plagues Baltimore?

May 30, 2015

The problem is that the property rights are allocated to the wrong people.

The people who own the buildings either can't, or won't, maintain and use them for anything.

So, have the local authority confiscate all unused / empty / unfit buildings and auction them off to the highest bidder, with a reserve price of $1. With two provisos :

1) the buyer has to turn up in person to make their bid. (No agents.)

2) the buyer forfeits the property if he / she hasn't done anything with it in 6 months. (We can have a 6 monthly rolling scheme for this until there is no derelict property left.)

This will have an immediate and powerful effect.

1) Current owners who don't want their property confiscated will DO something to try to get it used. They'll invest some money to make improvements, or call in housing associations, non-profits or urban makeover hipsters to turn them into artists studios or organic markets or maker-spaces etc. This kick-starts the whole gentrification life-cycle.

2) If the current owners can't even be bothered to do that, the housing associations and hipsters will turn up to make a bid anyway.

3) These buildings are so cheap that for really useless, unwanted buildings, ordinary citizens themselves can make the decision to buy and demolish them in favour of a garden / park / nature reserve etc. The government doesn't have to try to make that decision.

4) In fact the government doesn't have to make any decisions at all. It just adds liquidity to the market. It just has to set the parameter that empty / derelict buildings are unacceptable, and leave people to work out the best way to resolve that problem and put them back into use.