100 Abandoned Houses is essentially a photo essay of the abandonment of homes in the Urban Croe of Detroit. Many of the houses are beautiful old homes that have just been left to rot and decay in the elements.
Detroit isn't unlike most large cities (although their situation may be a bit worse than most). They suffered the same fleeing out to the suburbs that all cities faced in the 70s, 80s and early 90s.
Now, the shells of homes are a reminder of urban flight, a sign of deteriorated/neglected neighborhoods, and a sign of the abandonement that many neighborhoods face. A photo essay like this could easily be done in virtually any large city in the United States -- and could easily be done in Kansas City. Heck, in Kansas City, it could likely be done in a short afternoon, and may only take walking a dozen city blocks to complete. I addressed this some back in October.
Meanwhile, today, Yael Abouhalikah at the Star had a good column today about how Kansas City's reliance on TIF projects is eating into the city budget-- with 23% of every sales tax dollar now being used to fund TIF projects, vs being invested back into the city's decaying infastructure.
But in addition to money being taken away from tax revenue to pay for TIF projects, the amount of tax revenue that is coming is also decreasing -- in part, because of the displacement of tax dollars that comes from these TIF projects. If a new tax-subsided restaurant or entertainment district opens up, dollars that are spent there are moved from places that aren't subsidized, causing tax revenu to decrease.
Let me first say, I don't oppose the use of TIF money for redevelopment. It is a necessary tool. However, we, as a city, have not been very smart about how we use it. Instead of focusing the dollars to help with revitalizing old neighborhoods and fixing existing infastructure, we've tended to over-spend on projects that:
a) Require us to build MORE infastructure to support
b) Displace dollars (and residents) from fully taxable locations into these TIF developments
c) Continue to suck resources away from the city's old neighborhoods, further causing them to fall into disrepair -- even though we have so much visual evidence of the blight and problems this creates.
This isn't just a KCMO problem -- although tax programs to support development at Zona Rosa and in Shoal Creek certainly are contributing to the problem. Pretty much all of the cities in the metro have done this. Overland Park continues to build new shopping centers closer and closer to the Oklahoma boarder while older neighborhoods and shopping centers become blighted and abandoned. Shawnee continues to subsidize development further west, even though there are tons of abandoned strip centers on the eastern side of the city. KCK continues to subsidize development out at the Legends area, even though their urban core is struggling and older malls like Indian Springs are abandoned..
It's time to get back to helping the neighborhoods. In the long term, focusing subsidy dollars on rebuidling and repopulating urban neighborhoods is a benefit for the city. We can increase the populations in these neighborhoods (which increases tax revenue) without needing to build more infastructure (it already exists) -- and leaves less infastructure that has to be supported long-term. The improved density makes public transportation more viable. And it would remove the blighted abandoned homes that are more common in many neighborhoods than ones with people living in them. And these abandoned houses increase the feeling of disrepair (ie: Broken Windows theory), and provide a safe-haven for criminal activity. Meanwhile, they hamper efforts to build communities and to have effective neighborhood watch programs.
It's time to change the focus of our subsidized dollars...and put an end to the popularity of abandoned houses in our own city.
(Photos on this page were lifted from the 100 Abandoned Houses website and are located in Detroit.)