Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties – September 7, 2018

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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!

Downtown Pontiac, Michigan. (Credit: Michigan Municipal League, flickr, 2016)


It’s time to rewrite fair lending rules. (Just not like this.)“But while the advance notice of proposed rulemaking, set forth by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (an agency under the Treasury Department) has prompted cheers among bankers, the direction that the administration seems to be heading has prompted concerns among civil rights watchdogs. Among the new standards teased by Treasury’s call for input is a numerical target for fair lending compliance—a dollar-value approach that could cement the damaging segregation patterns that the law was designed to upend.”Kriston Capps | CityLab | August 31, 2018

The other side of “broken windows” “To this day, most policies that aim to reduce crime focus on punishing people rather than improving places. The President has called for a national ‘stop and frisk’ police program; the Attorney General wants more severe sentencing; advocates of ‘law and order’ are resurgent. We invest little in housing and neighborhood amenities like libraries, senior centers, and community gardens, which draw people into the public realm and put more eyes on the street. And we spend even less to address criminal “hot spots”—the empty lots and abandoned buildings that, according to Branas’s team, account for fifteen per cent of city space in America.”   Eric Klinenberg | The New Yorker | August 23, 2018

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit accusing HUD Secretary Ben Carson of dismantling Obama-era fair housing law“[Chief Judge Beryl A.] Howell, an Obama appointee, disagreed with the plaintiffs’ allegations that Carson had dismantled the 2015 rule in May when he withdrew a computer assessment tool that allowed the agency to oversee whether communities complied with the law. ‘Many aspects of the [Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing] Rule remain active,’ Howell wrote in her 77-page opinion. ‘HUD’s withdrawal of the tool does not ‘perceptibly impair’ the plaintiffs’ abilities to carry out their missions.'”  Tracy Jan | The Washington Post | August 18, 2018

For some, the price is too damn low“This past June, the Brookings Institution issued a report that rightly summed up the issue of housing in America — it’s too expensive, too cheap, or just right, depending on where you live. In essence, housing issues are a complex mix of regional issues, not an overarching national one, and the report’s authors recommend against using any type of one-size-fits-all policy prescription.”  Pete Saunders | Forbes | August 9, 2018


Could this tax on vacant properties help end homelessness?“Oakland voters could approve the state’s first tax on privately owned vacant properties in November. The city estimates the tax could raise as much as $10 million annually for homeless services, blight remediation and to stem illegal dumping. Tax revenue would also go toward new affordable housing.” Farida Jhabvala Romero | Capital Public Radio | August 31, 2018

Targeting the turning point of eviction“The 4,000 people a year helped by the law center, though, are just a fraction of the people who have been ordered to vacate their homes. More than 50,000 households get eviction notices every year in Los Angeles County — and statewide, according to advocates, that number jumps to 140,000 households.”David Gorn | KPCC | August 28, 2018


How U-M data ‘nerds’ helped Flint find homes with dangerous lead pipes“In 2017, the university team’s research revealed more than 20,000 structures that likely had unsafe lead or galvanized steel service lines — far above the city’s original estimate of 15,000. Through 2017, the number crunching played a vital role in Flint’s ongoing recovery; helping to save money as the city pinpoints and replaces hazardous lines.” Jim Malewitz | Bridge | September 4, 2018


New committee to tackle rental property inspections“The goal of the inspection program is to get rental properties up to code, to insure safety and boost property value. ‘By participating in a voluntary inspection you are bringing it [the property] up to a uniform code voluntarily and that adds value to your property,’ [Brian] Myers said.”   Sydnie Holzfaster | KQ2 | August 28, 2018

North Carolina

In Durham, gentrification follows a red line“And now, as a new study from the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund puts it, there’s a “land grab” going on in those same redlined neighborhoods. Places like Southside, East Durham and Old North Durham have all seen skyrocketing home prices and an influx of new, whiter residents since Durham has recovered from and thrived after the Great Recession.” Zachery Eanes | The Herald-Sun | August 24, 2018

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

(Credit: David Maialetti)

Why billboards matter in a mission to fight blight in Camden“The 6-by-12-foot billboards target pedestrians and are placed mostly on storefront walls. Camden Lutheran donates the space to community groups to advertise their events for a month. A billboard currently on display shows youngsters in a college study program. ‘How cool is that?’ [Jessica Franzini] said.” Melanie Burney | The Inquirer | August 31, 2018