Baltimore’s Vacant Housing Crisis

The recent Baltimore riots highlighted the plight of inner city — mostly African American — residents of Baltimore. A good way to understand the issues at hand is to map the spatial distribution of housing, and in particular vacancies. In the glorious days of post-war Baltimore (population peaked there at  around 950,000 residents in 1950), demand for housing in the city center was outstripping the actual supply of housing units. But the city’s population has shrunk by about 37% in 60 years, and there are vast amounts of unoccupied housing in the city center.

An interactive map of vacancies in Baltimore neighborhoods (a.k.a as census tracts in geographers’ parlance) is presented here. The color code is based on the fraction of vacant housing units.

Full screen version

The map presents the distribution of vacancies for the entire metropolitan area. The rectangular boundaries of the city — much smaller than the metro area, which includes Baltimore’s suburbs — clearly delineate urban blight. For instance, Rosedale, Maryland is a small community right to the East of Baltimore city. Interestingly, Rosedale is a more than 70% white and middle-class suburb, which sits right next to inner-city neighborhoods where a fifth to a quarter of all houses are vacant.

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