Communities Across the US Are Addressing Property Deterioration and Vacancy With ARPA

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States, Tribes, counties, and municipalities around the country have been hard at work determining how to use their allocations from the American Rescue Plan Act’s $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund – which we often clumsily abbreviate as the ARPA SLFRF.  

Every unit of government should have already received at least the first half of its ARPA SLFRF allocation, and the ways in which communities are determining how to program their potentially transformative federal relief payments are diverse and span the broad flexible uses authorized in Treasury’s Interim Final Rule.  

The Interim Final Rule issued by the Department of the Treasury outlines broad categories of eligible uses governed by several guiding principles – that the funds should be used to: 

  • address health or economic harms caused or made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, 
  • make communities healthier, stronger, and more resilient, and  
  • reach disproportionately impacted communities, particularly communities of color.

Center for Community Progress submitted a public comment letter to Treasury in July, as did many of our stakeholders, expressing our appreciation for Treasury’s flexible interpretation of the ARPA statute, and encouraging Treasury to go even further in subsequent guidance to explicitly name additional uses relevant to stabilizing neighborhoods. 

To respond to the ARPA SLFRF question we hear most often these days, we do not know when – or if – Treasury will be releasing additional guidance beyond what was contained in its Interim Final Rule. In the federal rulemaking process, an agency will typically alter an interim final rule if the public comments received warrant changes. However, Treasury is continuing to release updated guidance on its ARPA SLFRF landing page, most recently having uploaded revised reporting guidance on November 5, 2021. Community Progress will continue to monitor Treasury’s announcements for major updates, but we encourage ARPA watchers to get in the habit of refreshing Treasury’s SLFRF pages frequently. 

In the meantime, the Center for Community Progress has created new quick reference documents outlining how ARPA funding may connect to key vacant property systems in communities. Local leaders can use these reference pieces to learn more about the systems that can help address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties and how ARPA may provide an opportunity to improve those systems. 

From our review of ARPA plans from around the country, we are encouraged to see that, resoundingly, communities have called out deteriorating and vacant properties as a key issue that must be addressed to strengthen their neighborhoods. Below are just a handful of examples of how communities across the US are using ARPA funds to improve critical systems that address VAD properties.  

Neighborhood Markets and Data Systems learn more >    

  • Syracuse, NY proposed to use ARPA funds for a housing market study that would analyze vacant structures and housing market conditions and trends and to invest in advanced technology for housing inspectors to detect lead hazards. 
  • Detroit, MI will be using $4 million in ARPA funding to create a web-based portal that uses City data and property information to navigate residents to tax foreclosure prevention, home repair, eviction prevention, and other assistance. And the City will be creating a centralized intake and client management system for housing services. 

Strategic, Equitable Code Enforcement learn more > 

  • St. Louis, MO is investing $15 million in a home repair fund for low-income owners. 
  • Detroit, MI is using ARPA funds to provide free home repair services, beginning with roof repairs, to qualified homeowners. 
  • Syracuse, NY proposed to use $4.5 million of ARPA funds to invest in advanced technology for housing inspectors to detect lead and to remediate lead hazards. 

Property Tax Relief and Enforcement learn more > 

  • Orange County, NC is using ARPA funding to pilot their Longtime Homeowner Assistance program, which reduces tax bills for lower income residents that have lived in their property for over 10 years. 
  • Detroit, MI proposed to use $3 million to support a program that helps low-income renters and owners avoid tax-foreclosure related displacement. 
  • Gwinnett County, GA is using $1.5 million to waive fees for paying property taxes online. 
  • Binghamton, NY is using $2 million to partner with their county land bank on the rehabilitation of tax foreclosed properties for affordable housing. 

Land Banks learn more > 

  • In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s land bank will be using $10 million to address vacant properties and Altoona has proposed to dedicate $5 million to its land bank with $2 million for a revolving loan fund.  
  • The Central IL Land Bank is looking to use ARPA funding to create an owner-occupied rehabilitation program.  
  • Syracuse, NY is investing $5 million in the Greater Syracuse Land Bank to stabilize or demolish vacant structures. 
  • Rome, GA is planning to allocate $1 million to its land bank for housing rehabilitation and new construction. 

Vacant Land Stewardship learn more > 

  • Chicago, IL dedicated significant portions of its ARPA funding to vacant lot reduction strategies, urban agriculture, expansion of tree canopy, green infrastructure projects, and vacant lot environmental assessments. 
  • Baton Rouge, LA is planning to use over $2 million ARPA funding to help address vacant properties including cleaning up vacant lots. 
  • Houston, TX will clean up illegal dumping throughout the city with $1.5 million in ARPA funding. 

To explore more ways states and municipalities are using ARPA to address their needs check out these tools: 

Let us know how your community is using ARPA funding to address property vacancy and deterioration! Email us at info@communityprogress.org  

To learn more about the American Rescue Plan Act, visit communityprogress.org/resources/arpa/ 

Blog authored by Danielle Lewinski and Rob Finn