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!
What is the future of the black urban middle neighborhood? “Not every neighborhood has declined. Some have continued to hang in, remaining fairly stable but challenged; a (very) tiny few may be showing signs of gentrification. But hundreds of neighborhoods, from Chicago to Philadelphia, St. Louis to Buffalo, are endangered, and thousands of African-American families are seeing their modest wealth disappear, and the quality of their lives deteriorate.” Alan Mallach | Shelterforce | August 19, 2019
How HUD could dismantle a pillar of civil rights law “The HUD rule carves out an unprecedented guidance for the automated decision-making systems that power the housing market. These are the algorithms used by lenders and landlords that deliver judgments on credit risk, home insurance, mortgage interest rates, and more. Under the new dispensation, lenders would not be responsible for the effects of an algorithm provided by a third party—a standard that critics say would build an industry backdoor to bias.” Kriston Capps | CityLab | August 16, 2019
How segregation keeps poor students of color out of whiter, richer nearby districts “On the disadvantaged side of the border, there are nearly 9 million students who attend schools that are, on average, 65 percent nonwhite. These schools received about $13,000 per pupil. On the advantaged side, there are nearly 3 million students who attend schools that are, on average, 25 percent nonwhite. These schools receive about $17,000 per pupil. And there are about 133 borders that are extremely unequal, with a 50 percentage-point difference in nonwhite students and a 20 percent funding gap.”Alvin Chang | Vox | July 25, 2019
Minneapolis housing authority leads county in evictions“‘Our goal is to eliminate eviction filings, which means we have to have the services and support in place before so that the family gets the kind of help they need to avert the filing completely,’ [Ellen] Sahli said.”Marissa Evans | StarTribune | August 11, 2019
New York’s small business owners have ideas to reduce storefront vacancies“The next step after the commercial storefront registry would be a commercial vacancy tax, which would require state legislation in New York. The tax would apply to commercial spaces kept vacant beyond a certain length of time. The commercial vacancy registry would help advance that goal by providing data to help determine what might be an acceptable length of vacant time in order to allow for natural turnover of tenants while penalizing those landlords who are holding out for speculative reasons.” Oscar Perry Abello | Next City | August 6, 2019
Is rent control a ‘taking’ of landlords’ property?“The takings argument turns on two concepts. One is that the laws are so onerous that they amount to a “physical taking” of private property by the government — like eminent domain but without any compensation. The other is that they add up to an “uncompensated regulatory taking,” because restricting the amount of rent that landlords can charge lowers the value of the property.” Jared Brey | Next City | July 30, 2019
Pittsburgh’s property lottery “‘The worst enemy of a tax-delinquent, vacant, abandoned property is time,” said Kim Graziani[.] The more time that passes where that property has no responsible owner…the more likely taxpayers have to pay “to send police, to send fire trucks, to send the board-up crew to board up property” — or, ultimately, to demolish it.'” Jonah S. Berger, Serena Cho and Mick Stinelli | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 19, 2019
Milwaukee renters can now easily see a landlord’s eviction record before signing a lease“The newly released interactive map is just one element of a yearlong project to better understand evictions in the city. Maps and graphs posted online at mke-evict.com reveal the scope of the city’s evictions and are meant as a resource not solely for policymakers and other officials but also the public. That includes prospective tenants.” Alison Dirr | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | July 29, 2019
And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!
Local youth transforming vacant lots into gardens in Rochester“The project is called “Community Blooms” and vacant lots are changed into gardens that have beautiful flowers, a garden path and native plants. But the program does much more, it helps at-risk youth gain real-life work experience.” Josh Navarro | WROC 8 | August 16, 2019