Under a new state law called "quick take," the city of Baltimore can now seize and destroy abandoned property within ten days of notifying the owner. Moving fast, the city has already targeted 11,000 structures it plans to take over and knock down in five years.
"This is a very good thing because these vacant properties have been very depressing problems for the community over the yearsÂ… drugs, prostitution, vandalism," said Kelly Little of Baltimore Community Development.
The city says there are 40,000 of these properties, most abandoned for at least 2 years by owners because the cost of repair exceeds the value of the land. Now, under "quick take," if the owners won't fix them up, the city can move in.
"Instead of being caught up in the courts for an inordinately long period of time, the city can move quickly, assemble the properties, do the demolition and remedy the block," said Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore.
There are critics who say this gives the city too much power. The "quick take" law allows city officials to tear down whole blocks that are 70 per cent vacant. That means they can target an area that is 30 percent occupied.
Even within rundown blocks, there are still some proud homeowners, like John Michael, who do not want to move.
"I'm happy the city would get rid of the blight but I would like to stay," Michael said. "This is my home."
In response, the city has promised generous relocation benefits, and an end game that looks like this: blight replaced by thousands of new low-income homes. Small parks and open spaces would replace the ruins of urban America.