In Clarksburg, West Virginia, a seemingly successful move to demolish disused buildings and free up land has landlords crying foul.
At the end of May, a task force convened by the Obama administration suggested that Detroit needs to “right-size” its housing stock. That’s a phrase often used in reference to cities that have spent decades in the midst of population decline; in Detroit’s well-documented case, it was a city built for more than 1.8 million people that’s now home to about half that number. The task force suggested the city should tear down 40,000 properties left vacant in the exodus.
On its surface, this suggestion seemed like a no-brainer. “Blight is a cancer,” the task force’s leader told the New York Times. “Blight sucks the soul out of anyone who gets near it.” What other way could a city so deeply hurt by population loss rid its streets of vacant, abandoned, and potentially dangerous buildings? And if Detroit’s housing stock is really that bad, what could go wrong in a citywide demolition sweep?
The answer to the latter question can be found in Clarksburg, West Virginia.