Sharp cut sought in vacant housing Many public units being renovated

September 30, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III wants to reduce the number of vacant public housing units to 900, about 5 percent of the total number of units, by the end of the year.

The number of vacant units has declined to 2,111 from 2,826 in March, Mr. Henson said yesterday, and the city Housing Authority is beginning to renovate 480 units and hopes to renovate several hundred more.

The city has a total of 18,088 public housing units, he said.

Mr. Henson outlined his plans before the Board of Estimates, which approved yesterday the transfer of $2.7 million in federal Community Development Block Grant money to the Housing Authority, which oversees public housing.

That money, along with $7 million in Housing Authority funds, will be used to renovate the 480 units, he said.

Of the units to be renovated, 166 are in Harlem Park, Johnston Square, Penn North, Sandtown-Winchester and other communities, he said. The rest are in public housing projects, including Flag House Courts, Gilmor Homes and Murphy Homes.

"This is part of an ongoing effort to deal with all the vacant units in public housing," Mr. Henson said. The cost of the renovations will range from $12,000 to $22,000, he said.

He said he had begun "cobbling together" the funds needed to renovate several hundred other vacant public housing units by Dec. 31.

Mr. Henson said 18,000 families are on a waiting list to get into public housing. He said the Housing Authority was "doing its best" to make sure that new tenants would help maintain the renovated units "and to evict people who are not good neighbors."

Improving public housing has been one of the primary concerns of Mr. Henson, who was tapped in March by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to take over the Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Since then, he has led four ECHO -- Extraordinary Comprehensive Housekeeping Operation -- sweeps, which are designed to improve maintenance and security in public housing projects.

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