Community Progress Blog

Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties – June 15, 2018

Written by on June 15, 2018

This is our twice-monthly round-up of news stories covering challenges related to vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties — and how communities are transforming these properties into assets. (The headlines are for informational purposes only; inclusion does not indicate endorsement.) If you’d like to get this round-up in your inbox, join our email list!

Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Credit: Center for Community Progress, 2018) 

National

The high cost of abandoned property, and how cities can push back 
“‘The Empty House Next Door,’ a new report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy examining abandoned and unused properties, offers a deft accounting of the cost of these buildings on the surrounding areas. While they aren’t a new phenomenon, vacant buildings, especially in blocks or neighborhoods in legacy cities such as Detroit and Cleveland, have reached ‘epidemic level.'” 
Patrick Sisson | Curbed | June 1, 2018

What can bees teach us about building better urban ecosystems?  
“Understanding what’s made urban areas so good for pollinators will also help researchers figure out what role cities can play in their larger, regional ecosystems. Because, after all, while pollinators are key to the success of urban agriculture, the fact remains that most of our food is grown outside of cities, and we need bees to thrive there, too.” 
Jen Kinney | Next City | May 28, 2018

Cities now use taxes to fight blight. Is it working? 
“The notion of greedy landlords hiking up rents makes an easy scapegoat for policymakers and residents. But the real picture is much more complicated, with an insistence on long-term leases and major disruptions in retail shopping habits all playing a role in the vacancies, according to commercial real estate analysts.”
J. Brian Charles | Governing | May 14, 2018

Illinois

What will it take to desegregate Chicago? 
“[T]he report also offers specific policies to increase opportunity and options for residents living in historically disinvested neighborhoods, minimize the racial wealth gap, combat systemic racism, and improve health and safety. Improving access to affordable housing, according to the report, is a crucial step that helps achieve all these outcomes.” 
Tanvi Misra | CityLab | May 21, 2018

Chicago selling 3,000-plus properties through $1 vacant lot program
“Begun four years ago as a way to rejuvenate neighborhoods and bring in new property tax revenue, the city has sold 1,240 lots, according to the program’s website. The program requires buyers to already own property on the same block, be current on property taxes and have no outstanding debt with the city, like a late water bill or unpaid parking tickets.” 
Samantha Bomkamp | Chicago Tribune | May 18, 2018

Louisiana

Blight strike team demolishes home, tours other properties in BR
“The group’s goal is to identify the owners of blighted homes and businesses and go through the legal process to get those houses condemned. Right now, the mayor says they have 6,800 adjudicated properties on the list.”
Danielle Jackson | WBRZ | May 31, 2018

Minnesota

Minneapolis still battling against vacant properties — even in a housing shortage
“The registry of vacant and boarded properties is less than half what it was at the height of the housing collapse. The nearly $7,000-per-year penalty on property owners has better funded the city staff tasked with monitoring vacant housing, but it hasn’t eliminated a problem that officials say drags down values of neighboring homes and attracts crime.”   
Andy Mannix | Star Tribune | June 2, 2018

Pilot program aims to reuse, recycle materials from condemned buildings
“‘When we’ve crunched the numbers — and we’ve been doing this now for about five years — you do come out ahead in deconstruction. So we believe there’s an economic reason for deconstruction and there’s an environmental reason for deconstruction,’ [Thomas Adams] said, not to mention the social benefits of providing more gainful employment.”   
Peter Passi | Duluth News Tribune | May 30, 2018

New York

The eviction machine churning through New York City
“What happened to Ms. Carranza and the others shows how New York City’s housing court system, created in part to shelter tenants from dangerous conditions, has instead become a tool for landlords to push them out and wrest a most precious civic commodity — affordable housing — out of regulation and into the free market.”   
Kim Barker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Grace Ashford, and Sarah Cohen | The New York Times | May 20, 2018

North Carolina

‘It does something to your soul when everyone losing their homes looks like you.’
“The sight of padlocked doors and belongings tossed to the curb is increasingly common in cities like Durham, where newfound urban vitality often comes with a price for longtime residents. While Durham’s population soared 18 percent from 2008 to 2016 amid a flourishing startup culture, the surrounding area boasts what local advocates claim is the worst eviction rate in the state.” 
Max Blau | Politico | May 24, 2018

Wisconsin

City works to take ownership of more “distressed” properties 
“‘The problem is, there’s hundreds of houses that are distressed,’ said Racine Mayor Cory Mason. To help address the issue, Racine County has offered to transfer ownership of hundreds of these properties to the city next spring. Racine and its nonprofit partners would then be set with finding the money to mend them.”
Caitlin Sievers | The Journal Times | June 3, 2018

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

(Credit: NationSwell)

How do you fight blight? This man has an answer
“‘We weren’t naive enough to think we would stop crime or anything, but we wanted to at least minimize the decrease of property values,’ he says. It was an antidote to the city’s response, which was to simply board up the houses or demolish them completely. ‘We didn’t want to be part of the problem of tearing down houses, but be part of the solution to make them nice.'”
Joseph Darius Jaafari | NationSwell | June 6, 2018

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