Are Banks Responsible for Blight?

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A suit just filed by Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is charging Deutsche Bank with creating a public nuisance in allowing vacant, foreclosed properties to fall into such disrepair that they are blighting city neighborhoods.

At Community Progress, we will, of course, be watching this case as it makes its way through the courts.  But, for us, many of the questions raised by this suit – and a similar one in Cleveland, where the city and the non-profit Cleveland Housing Renewal Project have sued Deutsche Bank and several mortgage servicing companies to try to recoup the costs of maintaining or demolishing vacant properties it owns there – are more practical and immediate than any legal ruling that might come years down the line.

We know that banks are not in the business of maintaining properties.  So, as we look at these vacant, foreclosed properties, we ask, “How can we get them back into the hands of those whose business it is?”

In our long experience in dealing with problem properties, whether in the post-industrial cities of the Midwest or in the foreclosure-ridden neighborhoods of the Sun Belt, we have consistently seen that local people – neighborhood groups, non-profits and,often, local governments themselves – are in the best position to make smart decisions about properties and get them back into productive use.

The reforms we advocate, such as the use of land banks to put the titles to problem properties into public hands, empower communities to deal with these houses and buildings in the manner that makes the most sense for them, whether rehabbing and re-selling them, or using them as sites for community centers, parks, or public works projects.

This is why the city of Modesto, for example, is eager to establish the very first modern urban land bank in California and why we’ll be working with them to make that happen.

“We’re so pleased to be working with Community Progress.  In fact, what we’re developing with them is a key part of our neighborhood revitalization strategy,” says Hugo Ramirez, Community Development Program Specialist with the City of Modesto.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help your city, too.