What does it take to eliminate blight? New framework offers a model

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Residents at Flint Neighborhood Summit (Credit: Natalie Pruett)

Residents at Flint Neighborhood Summit (Credit: Natalie Pruett)

 

The City of Flint Planning Commission recently adopted Beyond Blight: City of Flint Blight Elimination Framework. With a five-year implementation timeline, the Framework uses an in-depth, data-driven approach that brings increased transparency and clarity to the City’s work — and, in so doing, it offers a model other cities can learn from.

News release >>
Framework summary >> 

“By being strategic with all of our collective resources, we are going to win the war against blight,” said Mayor Dayne Walling. 19,842 properties in Flint are in need of blight elimination, including commercial buildings, residential structures, and vacant lots, representing more than one-third of all properties in the city.

Properties in Need of Blight Removal
“”For the first time, we have the real and complete numbers: the scale and cost of the problem, the value of the work already being done, and the resources that we need to secure,” said Megan Hunter, director of planning and development for the City of Flint. The Framework calculates, for the first time, the total cost of all blight elimination interventions: $107,748,130 over five years. The Framework also calculates the current funding shortfall at $98,255,850, more than two-thirds of which (69%) is attributed to privately owned property.

Who is Responsible
The following five-year benchmarks in the Framework further quantify blight elimination in Flint:

• Remove 71,000 tons of garbage
• Board 5,000 vacant structures
• Demolish 5,500 vacant and blighted structures
• Mow 19,842 properties annually
• Reuse 5,000 vacant lots
• Bring 95% of properties into compliance with local ordinances
• Structurally and functionally rehabilitate 850 houses
• Increase commercial building occupancy by 15%

The Framework reflects a community-oriented focus. It also recognizes the value and scale of volunteer efforts in addition to city-led efforts, calculating that residents, community groups, and the local government partnered in neighborhood cleanups, mowing, and boarding valued at $5.6 million in 2013.  “In Flint, community groups and neighbors come together to play a major role in eliminating blight from our neighborhoods, and this Framework quantifies that for the first time,” said Clarence Campbell, vice president of Flint Neighborhoods United (FNU), an organization that represents neighborhood associations and block clubs. “The level of volunteerism and the love that we as a community have for our city is what I believe to be critical to moving Flint beyond blight.”

Blight Elimination Partners
The Framework builds on existing efforts. Over the past seven years, the City of Flint and the Genesee County Land Bank Authority have invested more than $60 million in blight elimination. The Framework demonstrates the need to double that investment and provides a clear path for strategic resource allocation that improves efficiency. Other cities have already expressed an interest in learning more about the data-based approach in Beyond Blight: City of Flint Blight Elimination Framework to inform their own blight elimination planning efforts. It will be showcased in a training session at the Center for Community Progress’ national Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference, to be held in Detroit on May 19-21, 2015.

The City of Flint, Genesee County Land Bank Authority, Center for Community Progress, and Flint Area Reinvestment Office partnered to guide the development of the Framework, which was produced by Natalie Pruett.