Community Progress Blog

Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and problem properties – September 15, 2017

Written by on September 15, 2017

This is our twice-monthly round-up of news stories covering challenges related to vacant, abandoned, and problem 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!

West Adams Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. (Credit: flickr user, Michael, 2013)


Inside the government program that pays to rebuild neighborhoods after a storm
“Since 1993, Congress has approved more than $50 billion in disaster recovery funding from the Community Development Block Grant program—money aimed at the complex multiyear task of helping local economies recover.” 
Cezary Podkul and Heather Gillers | Wall Street Journal | September 11, 2017

‘Nonprime has a nice ring to it’: the return of the high-risk mortgage  
“The [nonprime loan] sector is on course to produce about $10bn this year — a tiny slice of America’s $1.6tn overall home-loan market but one that’s growing rapidly.”
Ben McLannahan | CNBC | August 31, 2017

What does it take to see gentrification before it happens? 
“A neighborhood early warning system like this has been a dream for city planners for decades…Now, though, with the rise of big data, this dream has taken a giant step forward toward becoming a reality. As with all things big data, however, taking that step comes with both considerable promise — and peril.” 
Adam Frank | NPR | August 29, 2017

District of Columbia

Only in D.C.: What to do when your neighbor is a foreign government 
“With other vacant properties, the city could cut the grass, erect a fence and bill the owner. Not so with foreign missions. The city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is powerless over buildings that are essentially foreign soil despite their District addresses.”
Jenna Portnoy | The Washington Post | September 8, 2017


The cost of coastal capitalism: How greedy developers left Miami ripe for destruction
“In place of violent land-taking, speculators used the courts and local governments to force valuable black-owned land onto the market — through such legal devices as eminent domain, partition sales and tax delinquency proceedings. Developers also learned how to manipulate zoning ordinances and land-use regulations to ensure that all of the profits from area real estate markets flowed in one direction — and all of the hazards and liabilities in another.”
Andrew W. Kahrl | The Washington Post | September 12, 2017

The poor in Irma’s path
“Disasters tend to worsen the already present inequalities in their paths. Irma is no different. …In Florida, too, it’s the poor people of color, the disabled, and the elderly—who may not have been well-positioned to weather the storm in the first place—who will probably pay heavier tolls in its aftermath.” 
Tanvi Misra and Soren Walljasper | CityLab  | September 12, 2017


In northwest Detroit, residents have been revitalizing their neighborhoods for years 
“Lots with abandoned homes have been converted into green space with a butterfly meadow, birdhouses, hydrangeas, roses, and picnic tables. The Detroit Institute of Arts even displayed artwork on the properties, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the street last year.” 
Melissa Anders | model D | September 11, 2017


Researchers are mapping the racist foundations of Minneapolis housing patterns 
“The early results show, not too surprisingly, that the neighborhoods where racial covenants were clustered in the early part of the 20th century are still some of the city’s whitest.”
Jared Brey | Next City | September 8, 2017


1,000 and counting: Dayton’s home fixer-upper program grows  
“The Lot Links program, started in 2008, wipes away delinquent taxes on abandoned and distressed properties that people apply for and pledge to rehab or, in the case of vacant lots, turn into a sideyards or gardens. The main appeal of the program is that homes and properties can be purchased for cheap. In 2015, the average costs to applicants was less than $1,900.” 
Cornelius Frolik | Dayton Daily News | September 5, 2017


For renters, Harvey was the first blow, followed by orders to move
“Though many Houston-area landlords have waived fees and offered transitional help, others have been accused of hardball tactics that have added to this region’s pain, a familiar story line when a major hurricane strikes.” 
Mitch Smith | The New York Times | September 8, 2017


Old soldiers’ homes, left to just fade away
“For many buildings, there is no easy makeover, and few obvious buyers. Paying for upkeep is hard to justify at a time of soaring patient demand. So is paying for demolition. So hundreds of buildings stand preserved, at least for now, in a bureaucratic amber of indecision.”
Dave Philipps | The New York Times | September 3, 2017

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

Artist Chris Green (Credit: Wiley Price)

Why this artist hangs his paintings on abandoned buildings  
“The community development organization commissions [Chris] Green to paint portraits of prominent African-Americans, many of them St. Louisans, for a mural series called “Beyond the Walls.” Then they nail the finished pictures onto the boarded-up doors and windows of dilapidated buildings, in an attempt to beautify vacant structures and instill a new sense of local pride.”
Catharine Smith | HuffPost | September 12, 2017


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