Abandoned houses are probably the biggest issue facing the community, Melissa Dunbar, a lifelong resident of Fairhill, explained while sitting comfortably on her couch.
“I consider myself lucky every day that I have a roof over my head in this neighborhood, because there are so many that don’t. It’s a real problem.”
The presence of abandoned housing is more than just a problem but a serious stain on the face of the neighborhood. Not only are the numbers and figures for the amount of abandoned housing and the danger it inserts into the streets outrageous but the community is speaking out against the negativity it brings to light.
“It is definitely a problem and something that hurts the neighborhood,” Chase Williams, a resident of Fairhill, explained. “There are approximately 100 abandoned houses in the area and there are so many on each street, it’s hard to pick out which is the worst.”
The area of Fairhill is home to 687 vacant structures and 296 buildings that are classified as dangerous. There are over 1,100 vacant lots and almost 3,000 properties with code violations. The census reported that almost 18 percent of the housing units in the area were vacant and abandoned, which towers over the average of the city of Philadelphia itself, which is a little over 10 percent
“We always joke that we don’t have condominiums here, we have abandominiums” Williams said with a large smile. “It’s something easy to joke about, but in reality it is a huge problem. It’s very dangerous for the kids in the neighborhood. We can only guess as to what happens inside of them, but since they are abandoned, it leaves a lot of room for crimes. A lot of drug trafficking and crime take place in the abandoned houses. It is a huge problem and it is not fair to the children or the families of the neighborhood.”
The members of the community are vocal with their opinions on abandoned housing and when asking to speak with them about the issue, very few said no.
“We definitely have an abandonment problem here,” Jon Gonzalez of Fairhill eagerly explained. “Just on my street there is five abandoned houses, two on each side of me. It’s hard not to think or talk about, considering we’re surrounded by these empty, ugly, dangerous buildings everywhere.”
“There is a lot of community talk about what we can try and do to fix the problem,” Dunbar said. “As just members of the neighborhood, there is only so much we can do without organization or governmental help. I know the people on my block have formed a committee and are trying our best to get heard.”
The problem of abandoned houses continues to loom over the neighborhood and raises the question, what will it take to get this problem fixed and can it be done, ultimately saving the face of Fairhill?