From The Seattle Medium:
Abandoned homes are known to trigger a number of public health concerns for those living near them, including gun violence. But what happens when these houses are fixed up?
A group of researchers found that repairing empty, neglected homes lowers the rate of gun violence in the area.
The study, published in Dec. 2022 in JAMA Internal Medicine, was conducted in Philadelphia’s predominately Black, lower-income neighborhoods — a city with 10,000-plus abandoned homes and 40,000 vacant lots.
Eugenia South, the faculty director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Urban Health Lab, and other researchers, sorted 3,265 abandoned houses into three groups.
The first group received full remediation: working windows and doors, trash pickup, and weeding. The second set of houses received only front yard trash and weed clearing. The third and final group acted as the control, receiving no fixing up at all.
The team found that in the areas near the remediated homes, there was a 13.12% drop in gun assaults, a 8.43% drop in weapons violations, and a 6.96.% drop in shootings.
They also reviewed the remediation’s impact on nearby substance use, but found no reliable change.
On the JAMA Internal Medicine podcast, South said, “every time we step out of our houses, the places and spaces around us are influencing us. They’re influencing our physiology. They’re influencing our state of mind, our thought processes, how we connect with people.”
Previous research on urban housing supports her point.
Studies have found links between the presence of boarded-up buildings, drug-dependence mortality, rates of sexually-transmitted diseases, and premature death.
Additionally, residents in communities with abandoned homes and lots reported feelings of fear, stress, anxiety, and difficulty connecting with neighbors.
Two studies published in 2018 by South and other researchers found that restoring unkempt vacant lots reduced fear of crime and depression among nearby residents.
And now, her study on fixing abandoned houses shows similar results of positive change, which she calls “encouraging.”
Vice Chair for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, Department of Emergency Medicine