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!
How a home bargain became a ‘pain in the butt’ and worse“Across the country, people like Mr. Williams have found themselves in similar predicaments. Unable to obtain a traditional mortgage, they have signed a high-interest, seller-financed deal known as a contract for deed that works like an installment plan for housing. For many, these deals can quickly turn into money traps.”Matthew Goldstein and Alexandra Stevenson | The New York Times | July 7, 2017
The quiet crisis: mass eviction shows toll on homelessness on Native Americans “Since the mid-1990s, a federal program has helped fund tribal housing for sovereign tribes, and many now rely heavily on it to build, manage and repair tribal housing projects. But the Trump administration’s budget proposes slashing the housing department’s funding to Native American tribes by more than $50m, even though for decades the funding overall has remained stagnant, essentially decreasing each year as a result of inflation, according to Walters, of the national housing council. The lack of funding is a key reason why so many homes on reservations go long stretches without repairs and why it is difficult to increase the housing inventory.Lauren Dake | The Guardian | June 12, 2017
Settlements for company sins can no longer aid other projects, Sessions says “When companies settle claims of wrongdoing, they are often compelled to pay for environmental or community development projects as well as pay fines and direct compensation to victims…That longstanding practice is now under attack on two fronts, potentially jeopardizing a source of financing for initiatives across the country that supporters say have paid great environmental and social dividends.” Tatiana Schlossberg and Hiroko Tabuchi | New York Times | June 9, 2017
Arizona owners can lose homes over as little as $50 in back taxes “‘It’s very vicious and draconian way of enforcing taxpayer compliance, and we should never lose sight of the threat underlying the tax lien is you’ll lose your property and all of its equity,’ said Andrew Kahrl, a professor at the University of Virginia who has studied the history of the tax-lien industry across the country. ‘The part that should give lawmakers pause are the cases when people lose their homes over a small unpaid tax bill. While rare, it happens more often than people want to recognize.'” Emily L. Mahoney and Charles T. Clark | azcentral | June 12, 2017
An unfair divide “An unprecedented analysis by the Tribune reveals that for years the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities.” Jason Grotto | Chicago Tribune | June 10, 2017
County officials coordinate on relief for tenants “The idea is for the Summit County Fiscal Office to acquire the properties through foreclosure, likely before the end of this year, then transfer them to the land bank. The land bank would then erase the back taxes and help the tenants find a way to buy the property, which would be heavily discounted.” Doug Livingston | Akron Beacon Journal | July 15, 2017
Cleveland mapping charts impact blight“Hot spots of lead exposure and violent crime are most densely concentrated on the northeast, southeast and near-west sides of the city. Interestingly, those co-occurrences are high despite the condition of the vacant property — properties that are well-maintained are “nearly as similarly associated with violent criminal activity and lead exposure as vacant properties in distressed condition,” according to the report.” Rachel Dovey | Next City | June 7, 2017
Janesville could make owners register vacant properties“Some parts of the proposed ordinance would force property owners to register vacant properties with the city within 90 days of them becoming vacant, or within 30 days of a foreclosure proceeding or transfer of ownership of a vacant property.” Neil Johnson | GazetteXtra | June 16, 2017
And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!
#FlintRevitalizing – Flint co-op will put good food, ownership in hands of people Over the next few weeks, our featured ‘Blight to Bright’ spot will highlight stories on effective resident-led revitalization efforts in Flint. Click the image above to learn more about Pastor Flynn’s story on transforming a seven-acre abandoned commercial property into a resource for healthy food, and share your reactions using #FlintRevitalizing!