Astrophysicist turns his skills toward identifying and predicting location of vacant buildings

Project could help Baltimore and other cities redevelop blighted properties.

February 05, 2018 |

The City of Baltimore has hired a Johns Hopkins astrophysicist to develop a computer program to help identify abandoned buildings and predict which properties are likely to be left vacant in the near future.

Tamás Budavári will apply skills he has used to model the universe to the terrestrial task. The project is intended to aid a $700 million joint state-city plan to demolish and redevelop blighted buildings in Baltimore.

The city has about 60 building inspectors who have identified roughly 17,000 boarded up buildings and vacant land parcels. But city officials suspect that there are about 30,000 unoccupied buildings altogether—many of those currently unidentified.

Budavári will incorporate new sources of data beyond what inspectors report including water, gas, and electric billing records along with where mail is deemed undeliverable. His work may be distributed to other cities via the GovEx network.

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