Urban blight is a problem that afflicts many cities in the current economic climate. But in the long, drawn-out aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans is battling an extreme case. Coastal Connection covered the story in September ("Five Years After Katrina, New Orleans Struggles with Blight"), following the release of a study from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center ("Benchmarks for Blight," by Allison Plyer and Elaine Ortiz). The Data Center report quoted U.S. Postal Service figures that indicate 48,860 abandoned residential or commercial addresses in the city (although as the report notes, multiple mail addresses may exist at a single building, meaning that the total number of blighted buildings is almost certainly lower). USA Today offers an interesting take on the story this month: compared to other cities hit hard by the economic slump, the paper points out, New Orleans is actually making progress (“New Orleans' battle on blight seems to be working,” by Rick Jervis). Cities around the nation have struggled in recent years with the fallout from the housing market collapse and the nationwide foreclosure wave - leaving many cities with a combined problem of decrepit, abandoned properties along with habitable, but vacant, homes. Considering blighted properties together with empty, but possibly livable, units, New Orleans has cut its total of problem units by almost 20,000 since 2008 - from 71,657 to 53,111. That's a quarter of the city's addresses; but still, in other cities - including the coastal cities of Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. - the troubled-property count has risen as New Orleans' count has declined (see graph). Baltimore's and Washington's empty or blighted units still represent a smaller fraction of those cities' addresses than in New Orleans (10% for D.C., 14% for Baltimore) - but in terms of absolute numbers, the combined total of problem units from those two cities now rivals New Orleans' original post-Katrina blight tally from 2008: 71,217 (and climbing). New Orleans has the unique advantage of a rebounding population, USA Today reports: the city's numbers have been slowly, but steadily, growing since the city emptied out during the 2005 storm and floods. At the same time, neighborhood-by-neighborhood efforts are also part of the equation. USA Today focuses on the successes of the Broadmoor Improvement Association, which has helped residents return and rehabilitate homes - dropping the blight count from 2,000 out of 2400 houses after the storm, down to just 477 blighted structures today. LaToya Cantrell, who heads up the Improvement Association, explained to USA Today: "You have to bring people in, then inspire and encourage them to reinvest in their properties. That approach will get neighborhoods where you want them to be." But progress is gradual — and the presence of decrepit, abandoned structures continues to try the patience of some area residents. WWL-TV (New Orleans Channel 4) offers this report on an abandoned house that startled neighbors when a large section of roof collapsed suddenly (“Action Report: Ungutted house now falling,” reported by Bill Capo). And the administration of newly-elected Mayor Mitch Landrieu is struggling to re-boot programs instituted under former Mayor Ray Nagin — programs that, as progress bogged down in confusion and red tape, have come to be seen as part of the problem (“City struggles with blight-fighting program that causes blight,” reported by Katie Moore). In one peculiar footnote, a few hundred homes that were transferred to the controversial community action group ACORN (now disbanded after an unrelated scandal) remain in decayed condition, while the city works to assess the situation and develop some kind of work-around.