The Atlanta neighborhoods of Adair Park and Capitol View, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are home to sturdy craftsman bungalows and more modest workers’ housing of like vintage. They sit near efficient mass transit in a city choked with traffic. The population is growing as new migrants seek job opportunities. Yet house after house now sits boarded up. If someone lives in one, it’s a homeless person who pried open the plywood despite neighbors’ best efforts to bolt it shut. In places like these, for every bold new homeowner who swoops in on the chance to buy a historic fixer-upper for the price of a Prius, three speculators are looking to flip once property values recover, turning banks’ mortal losses into their own gains. Left vacant, the houses self-destruct with alarming speed with the help of vandalism and fires.

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