September 17, 2012

A Dollar, Just a Dollar!

What would you think if someone said you could buy a house for just a dollar? That there would be all sorts of strings attached? That it would be a dump? That you would be an urban pioneer? All of those would be correct.image

In 1976, Baltimore launched the Dollar House program, where people could buy an old rowhouse on the harbour for just a dollar, with the agreement that they’d spend $50,000 on renovating the house, and live there for a year. imageThis program completely changed the face of Baltimore’s Inner Harbour and it soon became a desirable place to live. Instead of rotting wharfs, there was a new Science Center. Instead of run-down warehouses, HarborPlace rose along the waterfront. These neighbourhoods are now home to some of Baltimore’s most expensive houses.

Several downtown neighbourhoods were targeted for the Dollar House program, and each of them is now an urban oasis of beautifully restored and renovated houses. image

On September 29th, the Baltimore Architecture is presenting a one-day seminar on the success of the Dollar House program. Some of the leading proponents of the program in the 1970’s will be speaking about how it all came together to become a model program that is still being replicated today. Stoke, in the UK, is currently offering houses for £1. Here. In addition to the speakers and panel discussion, there will be lunch and a bus tour of the Dollar House neighbourhood.

For more information about the Dollar House Program or for tickets to the event, please click here.

22 comments:

  1. There was a program like this when I was at school in New Haven, buying homes for $1 providing you restored them and lived there, and that city had an incredible stock of 19th century houses. It seemed to be working, at least for a while, but lately I have been hearing that some neighborhoods in New Haven are becoming very run down and unsafe again.

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    1. Sad to hear this. I understand that parts of New Haven are quite unsafe.

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  2. well back in the 70's there was a tax break for those willing to rehab. This old house- bob villa-- a mass com grad of UF on PBS talked us through the voo doo of building a home /rehab-ing oooh Martha S, sold a book and made it effortless (her bro a contractor helped) The gov can only do so much and when incentives are made available to their friends to exercise their goodwill-- the industry of change and hope that hopey changey thing works for them. four more years why not what the hek will i be better off in 4 do u work for the PO? don't forget the dancing Michelle

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  3. This is really interesting. Must dig in the details about this one. Thanks for the share! :) Got my eye on your next posts.

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  4. A great program with obviously good results. I wish I could attend the event to learn more and see the neighborhoods first-hand.

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    1. I think it's going to be a very interesting program.

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  5. This is a really interesting idea - $1.00 for a house!
    I do not know if anything like this has ever been tried in Canada - must look into that.
    Another great post Meg - Thank you!

    Linda Simpson.

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    1. It really saved whole neighbourhoods. It was done in about 25 cities around the US.

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  6. Great stuff. thanks for the posts.

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  7. Interesting, this is the second article in two days that I have read about the $1 house program. Check out the one over at History@Work - http://publichistorycommons.org/when-history-at-work-is-history-at-home-part-i/

    Cheers!

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    1. I just read that article. Thanks for sharing it.

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  8. Meg, I rarely comment on your blog, but I just have to let you know how much I love it. You always have such interesting information. I read you everyday and miss you terribly on the 2 days you take off (not that you don't deserve time off, but still...you're missed). I can't imagine starting my day with PD. Thank you so much for widening my vistas, educating me on the interesting tidbits on the city in which I live, and the sheer entertainment. I don't know you at all, but I think of you has a very dear friend. Jayne

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    1. Jayne... thank you so much! I hope to get to meet up with you.

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  9. I am working on Decatur's (Ga.) dollar home (urban homesteading) neighborhood; it's the one cited in the Sept. 18 History@Work link. The first article from my Decatur work was published in the DeKalb History Center's May 2012 newsletter: http://wp.me/p1bnGQ-1kA My blog has several posts on the gentrification underway in Decatur's dollar home neighborhood (originally South Decatur; rebranded in 1979 as "Oakhurst"). Decatur, along with Baltimore, was one of the original 23 cities in the demonstration program. The city sold 113 dollar homes between 1976 and 1982.

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    1. Thanks, David. I didn't know until this morning that Decatur had a Dollar House program!

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    2. Glad to provide it. BTW, Balto's Pigtown's one of my favorites -- I've done lots of work on stockyards and meat-related industries in the eastern US. I've added your site to my feed and I'm looking forward to exploring it some more!

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  10. Thanks Meg! My husband, Tim is a city and regional planner. I know he will be very interested in this!!

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  11. Meg, as it happens, friends and I have been talking about the Dollar House program lately and wondering why it's not being implemented again. I won't print their theories because that would get us into a heavy political discussion. But we can talk about it in person on the 29th.

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  12. How much different a concept was The Homestead Act of 1862?. both estentially government welfare programs. The dollar program was To benefit me-- via the government ---everybody else-- joining together to help me get ahead. I get land lots of acres out in the midwest, eake out an existanece for five years and it is mine all mine-- I spend $50,000 via low interest FHA mortgage with deductions on my income tax and it becomes a wise investment --- Could it be that not everyone gets in on it we are the 47% that expects Uncle Sam to help us out---- why perhaps all these lost real estate commisions are a cause for concern for a large lobby group in washington DC thus no more dollar program no more homestead act -- why don't Indian reservations have time share rentals or sell their land for $1 expecting the buyer to improve it within 5 years --- there needs to be an entirely different dynamic to Rehabilitate the Decaying inner cities A paradyme shift in Housing why is a recovery measure by rising house prices why can't people be satisfied with living in a comunity and giving back and not flipping a property a Neighborhood had NEIGHBORS

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  13. Oh good - homework for the night. What really happened under the Homestead Act and its subsequent other spin offs ? did big lumber companies and big ranchers finesse the system? you tell me. was the dust bowl a result of new homesteaders failing to understand soil science????

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