This is our twice-monthly round-up of news stories covering challenges related to vacant, abandoned, and problem 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!
Senate Democrats put pressure on Carson over potential HUD budget cuts“The White House is considering cutting more than $6 billion from HUD’s 2018 budget, according to preliminary budget documents obtained by The Washington Post this week. The proposal would eliminate billions of dollars from public-housing maintenance funds — used to fix vital equipment such as toilets, water pumps and heating equipment — and eliminate community development grants entirely. Such grants are used to fund a range of services, such as building affordable housing, meal assistance and first-time homeownership programs.” Jose A. DelReal | Washington Post | March 10, 2017
HUD has blight-fighting power in its back pocket“A federal program to sell off underwater mortgages has enriched for-profit real estate investors. What if nonprofits and cities focused on neighborhood stabilization bought all of them instead?” Oscar Perry Abello | Next City | March 6, 2017
Opinion: ‘Smart Decline’ is dumb“This is not to say demolition isn’t a necessary tactic when used as part of larger redevelopment framework. The problem arises when a stand-alone policy of demolition is “regarded as a path to salvation,” as the New York Times said in 2013: ‘For many cities urban planning has often become a form of creative destruction.’” Richey Piiparinen | CityLab | March 5, 2017
Georgia H.B. 434 aims to reduce blight“City officials say that’s why there are thousands of dilapidated and abandoned homes in Savannah, because the city is not able to resale or improve those properties for 20 years. This new bill that’s been proposed would reduce that time frame to only five years.”Elizabeth Rawlins | WTOC.com | February 21, 2017
Survey spotlights Muncie blight fight“Briana Grosicki, who is with the city’s Historic Preservation and Rehabilitation Commission, says the ScoutMuncie effort resulted in an assessment of all 30,000 properties and the structures located on them. The results, Grosicki says, show blight affects all areas of the city, ‘but the extent of vacancy is not as overwhelming as previously thought.’” Dan McGowan | Inside Indiana Business | March 7, 2017
KCPD’s East Patrol Initiative seeks to demolish vacant houses“[Major Jim] Thomas is overseeing an initiative called “Demolition Eight” led by KCPD Captain Ryan Mills. Using crime data, they pick out eight vacant houses to demolish. ‘If you feel better about your neighborhood, you got a little bit more pride in it and maybe you’re going to do more to fight violent crime in your neighborhood,’ Mills said.” Andres Gutierrez | KSHB 41 | March 10, 2017
Habitat hoping to stabilize Paterson neighborhood “The goal is not so much transformation as it is stabilization, said Habitat executive director Barbara Dunn. The non-profit hopes to change the look and feel of this neighborhood by attracting a groundswell of homeowners, who unlike renters and absentee landlords would be more invested in keeping things tidy, fixing what’s broken and calling police when they see something.”Colleen Diskin | NorthJersey.com | March 2, 2017
‘Zombie home’ comes back to life, ready for sale “From 2012 until 2015, the “zombie” home just sat that there, until the bank donated the property to the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation, known simply as the Land Bank, which converted the eyesore in less than a year. BENLIC Executive Director Jocelyn Gordon predicts the new and improved house will soon become a neighborhood asset, “to have a jewel like that on a block like this in Kenmore, we anticipate this house will sell, pretty much, immediately.” Al Vaughters | WIVB 4 | March 14, 2017
West Virginia communities display best efforts to tackle dilapidated building issues “’We’ve been working with these communities to look at revitalization of these dilapidated buildings, looking at residential and commercial properties in the dilapidated downtown areas,” [Luke] Elser said. “We’re working on removing the worst, most dangerous structures, working to fix the ones that we don’t have to tear down, so that we get the vacant properties back to a productive use.’” Brittany Murray | The Exponent Telegram | March 5, 2017
And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!
In Chicago and Philadelphia, the difference a park makes “Chicago is at the forefront of a growing, big-city trend. It has been undertaking a major parks and open space program, upgrading neighborhood playgrounds and recreation centers, scooping up acres of disused land for new green areas and repurposing large swaths of formerly industrial waterfront.” Michael Kimmelman | The New York Times | March 12, 2017