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The Maryland Curiosity Bureau

Whatever happened to Baltimore’s Dollar House program?

dollar house homesteaders
Lillie Hyman and Judy Aleksalza bought their houses for a dollar in Baltimore in the 1970s (photo credit Aaron Henkin / WYPR)

Back in the 70s and 80s, you could buy a vacant house for a dollar if you promised to fix it up and live there. What happened to that deal? Why did it end? Can the city bring it back? And by the way, are any of those original homesteaders still around?

In this episode, we hear from:

Dollar House homesteaders Lillie Hyman and Judy Aleksalza

Jay Brodie, former Baltimore City Deputy Housing Commissioner

Mary Pat Clarke, former Baltimore City Council President

Tyrone Bost, head of H.O.M.E.S.

Lilly Hyman
“Our children still are friends with the children of the people who lived here. You don’t just get a Dollar House. You get a community.” Lillie Hyman at her home on Portland Ave in Baltimore’s Ridgely’s Delight neighborhood (Photo credit Aaron Henkin / WYPR)
Judy Aleksalza
“I liken it to childbirth. You know, it’s really miserable to go through, but after it’s all over, you’re kind of glad.” Judy Aleksalza at her home in Barre Circle in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood, holding a photo of her house before it was renovated (Photo credit Aaron Henkin / WYPR)

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs and podcasts for WYPR. His current project is The Maryland Curiosity Bureau. Aaron's neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks, earned the 2018 national Edward R Murrow Award. His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times. Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.