Thursday, March 19, 2009

Urban renewal - Habitat tears down houses

I think this is a good sign ...

Saginaw Journal - In Hard-Hit Areas, Habitat for Humanity Adds Demolition to Its Mission -

... International leaders of Habitat for Humanity, an organization more than three decades old, say their focus is changing to meet the demands of a changing economy. In cities where so many homes sit empty, the group is leaning away from building new houses and instead fixing up old ones, said Ken Klein, the vice chairman of the group’s board.

In recent years, about 100 of the organization’s affiliates around the country have done the same, removing recyclable items, like cabinets, floorboards, plaster and light fixtures, from condemned houses and, in a few cities, even razing some structures...

When we drove across the northern-eastern border of the United States last year I was forcibly struck the immense stretch of desolation.

The region has been in decline for decades, but things felt much worse than even two years before. Since then we've been reading reports of vast stretches of Cleveland with many abandoned homes.

People still live where the lumber, water, and railways of the 19th century put them. In some cases new economies make those places viable. In most cases they, like the American automotive industry, need to downside by at least 50%.

It's possible to image a satisfactory end point in a world where telepresence and telecommuting are becoming commonplace. Cities with large parks and green spaces, better aligned along transportation corridors. Larger homes with expansive lawns. Bicycle paths and playgrounds.

To get there however a lot of homes have to go, and existing homes must be refurbished and expanded.

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