EDITORIAL: Finding solutions to a most perplexing problem -- blight

January 8, 2014 

Blight: a disease that makes plants dry up and die; something that causes harm or damage like a disease; a damaged condition.

-- Merriam-Webster

There are many cases of blight in the Macon-Bibb County area. True to its definition, blight not only makes plants wither and die, it can bring down, over time, entire neighborhoods and cities. This newspaper and the Center for Collaborative Journalism is going to take on the issue of the blight around us for the next four months. What causes it? Are there ways to erase it without using bulldozers? And how can we prevent it or keep it in check? Tough questions with many answers.

There have been a plethora of organizations, from the Macon Area Habitat for Humanity to Rebuilding Macon, that have taken blight on, but as we look around our community, success has not been achieved -- yet. Certainly there have been successes: Tattnall Place, a development that replaced Oglethorpe Homes; and Bartlett Crossing, which transformed the old dilapidated Macon Homes area into 75 new single-family homes. Both areas were initiatives by the Macon Housing Authority and its various partners. Habitat has taken on the Peach Orchard (now called Lynmore Estates) and Rebuilding Macon has helped thousands of low-income, elderly or disabled families keep their homes presentable and livable. Unfortunately, other blighted areas have outpaced our resources to respond, and for every Tattnall Place, Lynmore Estates or Bartlett Crossing, there is a Village Green, Unionville or King’s Park. Blight is a virus that spreads and infects adjacent blocks and entire neighborhoods, leading Macon-Bibb County to attempt to demolish at least 100 abandoned or dilapidated houses a year. The first three of 2014, on Rutherford Avenue, will be torn down today.

Our series will not only try to explain blight, but more important, present solutions to this most perplexing of problems.

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