A cluster of vacant rowhouses in the 1600 block of North Gay Street succumbed to the metal claw of an excavator this month, as yet another batch of unwanted city homes turned to rubble.
Once the East Baltimore tract is cleared, nothing will be built there. It will be turned into a community-managed open space, providing a patch of green for residents of nearby senior housing units and tenants at the restored American Brewery building.
The $215,000 demolition is among the most recent projects funded by the city’s Affordable Housing Program. The $60 million program was created six years ago, after then-Mayor Martin O’Malley dangled it as a carrot in his successful effort to persuade a skeptical City Council to support a new Hilton convention center hotel downtown.
But while the city-owned 757-room hotel opened in 2008 to fanfare, the housing fund has largely faded from public view. Some current council members weren’t even aware of it until The Baltimore Sun inquired.
The Affordable Housing Program has spent three-fifths of its original budget so far. And despite the program’s seemingly straightforward name, the bulk of that $36 million has gone toward tearing houses down, not putting them up.
“It was really a blight elimination program,” Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said. “There was some confusion about the money being used for development of new housing. In fact, that was not the primary purpose of the money.”