No wrecking balls for dozens of blighted Milwaukee homes, instead they will be deconstructed

MILWAUKEE -- The City of Milwaukee is starting to tackle the problem of blighted homes in a new way. Instead of taking a wrecking ball to the homes, people are being hired to take homes apart -- so parts can be sold.

"When you do a mechanical demolition, all of this beautiful lumber is thrown in a landfill," said Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman.

Bauman came up with the idea to hire people who live near the blighted home to tear them down.

"The upfront cost is higher. But we believe that in time, as the market grows for the reclaimed materials, the cost will actually be less," Bauman said.

Spencer Renovation and Construction was selected as the contractor. The city is investing $1.2 million into the deconstruction of 56 homes as a trial of the program through the end of April 2020.

"What we're doing here is providing opportunity," sais Alderman Russell Stamper.

Right now, there are 600 to 700 blighted homes in Milwaukee, according to city leaders. Most of them are in Districts 6 and 15 -- where many of the workers hired for the initiative live. A lot of the workers are ex-convicts grateful for the training and a new start.

City leaders say this also means fewer trees will need to be cut down for future projects. Also, with the deconstruction, there is less of a chance any hazardous materials like lead get out of the neighborhood.