Proposal may change city's razing policy


Instead of tearing down dilapidated houses willy-nilly, city officials may remove whole blocks of vacant buildings, under a proposed demolition policy that could mean the razing of as many as 300 houses annually.

The policy, one of Housing Commissioner Patricia J. Payne's first major initiatives, represents her attempt to restructure the demolition policy, which has come under attack in recent years by city residents who say the toppled houses become dumping grounds and magnets for drug addicts, vagrants and rodents.

It's also an attempt to prevent problems that have occurred in the past when demolitions have gone awry, triggering the downfall of other dwellings. Estimates on how much such demolitions have cost the city were not available yesterday.

Since February, there has been a moratorium on demolitions except for emergency cases, including collapsed houses or severely fire-damaged properties. The moratorium was established because of community concern about the city's scattered demolition process, started under former housing commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

At a public meeting called by Payne's office this week at the War Memorial Building, housing officials unveiled their strategic plan for demolition, which includes notifying residents in advance and tearing down entire blocks of blighted, vacant houses.

City officials had requested $10 million in demolition funds from the state this year but were allotted only $2 million, which they estimate will pay for about 300 demolitions per year. With roughly 12,000 houses in need of demolition, unless housing officials secure other funds, it would take about 40 years to bring down the homes.

"I think people are pleased to know that we have thought through how we're going to do this," Payne said.

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