Resurrecting Abandoned Homes in Philadelphia

Fighting Red Tape to Fix Up Cities, One Neighborhood at a Time

Ed Robinson in the doorway of an abandoned building he plans to renovate.

Ed Robinson in the doorway of a house he plans to renovate in South Philadelphia. Tracy Wahl, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Wahl, NPR News

Abandoned houses line the streets of many American cities — even cities that are being revived. They're a visible symptom of urban decay.

Vacant homes also can be trouble spots, serving as havens for drug addicts. And they lower the value of surrounding homes. Once a house is left empty, it can take an extraordinary effort to bring it back to life.

In Philadelphia, there are an estimated 26,000 vacant homes. NPR's Steve Inskeep met a group of "urban pioneers" and investors, bargain hunters eager to fix up abandoned homes. And he met residents of blighted neighborhoods who are struggling to cut through bureaucratic red tape so they can reclaim affordable housing.

Breaking the cycle of abandonment is a complex issue, and the need is urgent. Every year, the city of Philadelphia destroys about 1,000 homes that can't be salvaged, even as an equal number are freshly abandoned.



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