Both vacant properties and distressed populations inhibit cities from reaching their potential as agents of sustainability
Washington, D.C., has a new program that allows homeless families to create "sweat equity" by helping rehab vacant properties, where they may then live for up to two rent-controlled years. Theresa Vargas writes in the Washington Post:
There are ... about 858 homeless families in Washington and 70 vacant city-owned buildings, more than half in Southeast.
In February, [D.C. Human Services official David] Ross got orders to make the program happen. By May, [Neapolean] Granderson and 13 other participants were sitting in a classroom, learning how to read blueprints. Now, stop by two buildings on Wayne Place SE any day of the week and there they are in yellow vests, tearing down walls, hauling bricks and seeing past the rubble of what was and imagining what might be.
The city is hoping to wean participants off its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which is scheduled to sunset in 2015, and move into the paying workforce. Vargas writes that they work the maximum number of hours that their benefits allow, and are paid by city contractors responsible for the vacant properties' rehab. To help participants build up savings, a portion of their pay, and later their rent, will go into a special account.