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!
Why a housing scheme founded in racism is making a resurgence today“They can make monthly payments on a home directly to the seller, instead of a bank, with the promise of receiving the deed only once the property is entirely paid off, 20 or 30 years down the road. In the meantime, they have few of the legal protections of a typical home buyer but all of the responsibilities of one.” Emily Badger | Washington Post | May 13, 2016
What to do with Birmingham’s surplus schools?“Vacant schools like Powell are a common sight throughout Birmingham. The buildings symbolize decades of population decline and budget cuts. Now, as the city center grows, many hope these large structures will be revitalized.” Mary Scott Hodgin | WBHM | May 5, 2016
Everyone in Fresno takes financial hit from run-down apartments“Substandard apartments drive away outside investment in the community, strain the city budget and reduce property values, say experts in housing, planning and development.” Barbara Anderson | Fresno Bee | May 8, 2016
Southwest Atlanta neighborhoods want city to ‘fight the blight’“Those demolition plans, according to Georgia Tech City Planning Professor Dan Immergluck, could knock down as many as 500 structures during the year, which would make a “sizable dent” in alleviating Atlanta’s costly blight problem.” Sean Keenan | Creative Loafing | May 16, 2016
Volunteer Group targets overgrown Rockford lawns to reduce blight“Rockford has partnered with an up-and-coming volunteer group to make a difference in the neighborhood by mowing empty lots.” Matt Rodewald | My Stateline | May 16, 2016
‘Learning garden’ takes root on Detroit’s east side“[D]evelopers felt that the area wasn’t sexy enough and they had no interest, so we decided to take matters into our own hands,” Sessoms said. “We went to the Detroit Land Bank Authority and purchased the land so we could start the process of rebuilding our community.” Kyla Smith | Detroit News | May 9, 2016
Ingham County Land Bank celebrates new playground“’This serves as a great example of coordination between an active neighborhood group, local government and institutional stakeholder residents in transforming a blighted property into a neighborhood asset,’ said Jeff Burdick, executive director of the Ingham County Land Bank.” Fox 47 | May 13, 2016
45 dangerous $1 houses getting new owners in Kansas City“The Kansas City Land Bank on Monday approved 45 applications from people willing to buy a dangerous house for $1 with the promise of investing the money to fix it up.” Matt Campbell | Kansas City Star | May 16, 2016
New Jersey groups convert empty buildings into homes for Seniors“The nonprofit, based in Metuchen, is renovating another convent in Edison…and it has plans to open 100 new units of senior housing in 1,000 days, hoping to change not only former convents but also decommissioned school buildings and some of the abandoned motels that line the Jersey Shore.” Associated Press | New York Times | May 15, 2016
Opinion: Homeowners hardest hit by foreclosure crisis deserve ‘disaster’ relief“Some U.S. communities saw little or no decreases in median home values during the crisis; some experienced large decreases but have fully recovered or are close to it; and still others suffered dramatic decreases and have seen little or no recovery.” Matthew Rossman | Cleveland.com | April 13, 2016
Clarke: Boost transfer tax to rehab city housing stock“Under Clarke’s proposal, $60 million would be used to clear the backlog in the two existing city programs, one that provides free basic electrical, plumbing, and heating repairs, and a second that pays for home modifications for those with disabilities.” Tricia L. Nadolny | Philly.com | May 14, 2016
For Charleston, vacant buildings present big challenges (interactive map)“When a building remains vacant after one year on the registry, the commission charges the owner a $250 fee. The fine increases by $250 for each year the structure stays on the registry. If the owner’s balance reaches $1,000, the commission may file a lien on the property.” Elaina Sauber | West Virginia Gazette | May 9, 2016
And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!
Historic scenes may fill windows of vacant spaces in downtown Durango“Vacant businesses on Main Avenue could transition from eyesores to story-telling tools under a plan to cover windows with vinyl decals of historic photos this summer.” Mary Shinn | Durango Herald | May 13, 2016