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!
Housing quality is key to mental health“How Housing Matters notes that ‘a team of child development researchers found that children from low-income households living in concentrated poverty were more developmentally harmed by poor housing quality than by residential instability, unaffordability, or other housing factors.'” Miriam Axel-Lute | Shelterforce | February 6, 2019
Housing vouchers mostly move families into impoverished neighborhoods, even when better apartments exist elsewhere “Overall, just 5 percent of metropolitan families using vouchers live in high-opportunity neighborhoods even though those areas account for 18 percent of all affordable rentals.” Tracy Jan | Washington Post | January 3, 2019
Revised San Diego law allows for more parklets, pop-ups“What’s unique about St. Petersburg’s effort is that it specifically targets abandoned homes and vacant lots owned by absentee landlords and is focused on turning those properties into affordable homes for lower-income residents. The initiative has cost the city $750,000 while generating $2.1 million in revenue in liens and assessments collected at auction.” Rachel Kaufman | Next City | February 12, 2019
How natural disasters can spur gentrification“[H]urricane damage is positively associated with the likelihood of a New Orleans neighborhood having gentrified in the 10 years after Katrina…[G]entrification was more likely in neighborhoods that had worse physical damage.” Richard Florida | CityLab | February 12, 2019
City Council urges Legislature to consider more property tax breaks for New Orleans residents “Council members said the idea is to help people who have seen their home values and resulting property taxes skyrocket due to pricey renovations on nearby homes.” Jessica Williams | The New Orleans Advocate | February 9, 2019
Baltimore enacts new rules to root out squalid rental properties. But some tenants could lose their homes“‘I had a case with a tenant who was forced to leave because the property didn’t pass inspection,’ said Zafar Shah, an attorney with the Public Justice Center, a nonprofit that represents low-income tenants in housing court. ‘The landlord isn’t paying any price for what happened to the property while the tenant is paying the ultimate price by being forced to leave.'” Doug Donovan | Baltimore Sun | February 7, 2019
Rehabilitate or lose it: Youngstown launches new blight program“‘We are going to try to work with people to remediate blighted commercial properties. If they don’t do it then we are going to work in eminent domain issues, assessing tax statements and ultimately see if we can have those become city properties,’ [Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian.] said.”Amanda Smith | abc 33 | February 12, 2019
Metro Council donates vacant properties for affordable housing opportunities “The effort is to create more affordable housing, so by this time next year 15 vacant properties including this empty lot will soon be a home. That’s all across the city from North Nashville, to Madison to Old Hickory.” Kelsey Gibbs | News Channel 5 Nashville | February 15, 2019
Danville City Council to look into creating a land bank to revitalize abandoned buildings “‘The goal is not to come in, buy it and sit on it, that’s a lot of the issue we have now,’ [Danville Vice Mayor Lee Vogler] said, ‘We want folks to buy them, fix them up, and get back into use.'”Hannah McComsey | abc 13 News | February 18, 2019
And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!
Bringing nature back to the urban core“The relationship between humans and nature improves mental health and promotes prosocial behavior. But as cities grow, green space is squeezed out. Community leaders are finding ways to restore some of the balance.” Gregory Schmidt | The New York Times | February 12, 2019