The empty houses have a name: "abandominiums."
It was not Hugh Osborne's first choice of house. "We live there because we can not afford the houses that are legal," he says. "The prices are too high."
Osborne and other Broadway East residents disagreed with the remarks made by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh as she traveled through the area to review the work of her violence reduction initiative.
In a segment that appeared on Fox 45 this week, Pugh heard a comment from another official: "What the hell is going on? We must all take this [expletive] down."
Later she noticed that she could smell rats and dead animals in the area.
For some residents, the mayor's statement seemed like a joke to people who have lived in the area all their lives.
"As we have fewer people," said a long-standing resident, who refused to give his name for fear of his safety. "What she said was offensive."
Dante Lessane, 48, agreed with that. "That's not how you talk," she said. "That is not professional at all."
A spokesperson for the mayor emphasized Pugh's commitment to improving the lives of East Baltimore residents.
"I can assure you that community leaders are aware of the mayor's involvement" in the area, said commissioner Michael Braverman. "The mayor cares, that's why she walks."
Braverman said the mayor is also planning to introduce legislation later this month that would create a $ 20 million fund for affordable housing.
Several residents suggested that instead of breaking down the vacant units, they could be converted into affordable housing units.
Lessane would like to see more apartments available in the area in her price range.
"Many things that we can not afford," she said. "I work at McDonald's."
Osborne said he would like to see homeless people getting the means to buy abandoned empty areas and turn them into safe, sustainable housing.
"It's easy to get something down, but it's hard to rebuild it," he said.
Braverman said that it is not always feasible to rehabilitate houses, because that requires expertise in sanitary and electrical wiring, as well as in other areas.
Residents pointed to other issues, such as the lack of supermarkets in the area and the methadone clinic, some of which claim to have become a magnet for crime.
Pugh hears them, Braverman said.
"The mayor listens to the community's concerns," he said. "She wants to do everything she can to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood."
Rodney Wright, 53, remembers the days when the neighborhood flourished. People decorated their steps with plants in painted tapes and regularly held cleaning and block parties.
"It was beautiful," he said, standing in front of a covered Formstone house, now empty.
A cat peeked through a shattered window nearby. Wright would like to see city workers doing more to clean the area.
"You see things pile up, but you do not see people doing anything about it," he said.