Housing Abandonment:

A National Problem Needing New Approaches

CED-78-126: Published: Aug 10, 1978. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1978.

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Although housing abandonment is a relatively new phenomenon, it has generated concern among those who have experienced or observed its impact on the Nation's cities. Various studies have suggested that housing abandonment is a market phenomenon which is accelerated and exacerbated by poverty, racial tensions, rising crime, and poor neighborhood services. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency primarily responsible for urban housing programs, does not have a specific program for dealing with housing abandonment nor has it developed an overall strategy for combating abandonment.

Results of a questionnaire sent to the nation's 201 largest cities indicate that: (1) 113 cities have housing abandonment problems to some degree; (2) many cities have no statistical information on the extent of their abandonment problems; (3) no single accepted definition of the term housing abandonment exists; (4) in most cities, the vast majority of abandoned houses are privately owned; (5) no single cause can be blamed for housing abandonment; and (6) various strategies are used to combat abandonment. Three cities reviewed in detail, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Detroit, have used block grant funds to reduce abandonments. St. Louis and Detroit have made little progress, but Philadelphia had a 24-percent improvement in 2.5 years. Demolitions accounted for 3,900 of the 5,600 eliminated structures, and the remaining structures were eliminated through several rehabilitation programs, including urban homesteading.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To determine the extent of the national housing abandonment problem and to establish a basis for dealing with the problem, the Secretary, HUD, should: (1) develop and disseminate to all communities receiving block grant funds an overall strategy for reducing abandoned housing inventories and preventing further abandonment; (2) require communities receiving community development block grants to recognize, through housing assistance plans, the extent and location of abandoned housing and implement specific strategies for reducing serious problems; and (3) provide additional financial incentives by way of the new Urban Development Action Grant Program to communities that demonstrate the capacity, need, and desire to minimize abandonment problems.

    Agency Affected:


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