Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and problem properties – August 12, 2016

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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!

Detroit Homes

Detroit Homes (Credit: Luke Telander for Center for Community Progress, 2014)


For more U.S. cities, downtown is a center of economic strength“Job gains are concentrated in urban centers, largely to the benefit of downtown-area residents and suburban commuters, leaving many city dwellers with few good options, said Alan Mallach.” Scott Calvert | Wall Street Journal | August 5, 2016

Why lead paint still haunts industrial cities in the U.S.“’What [industrial] cities did, which was a big mistake, is they lost their adherence to standards…The fear was that, if they enforced their housing codes, people would abandon their houses and leave.’” Aria Bendix | CityLab  | July 29, 2016

Gas leaks, mold, and rats: Millions of Americans live in hazardous homes“The report highlights research showing how people living in areas of concentrated disadvantage are more likely to suffer health problems, such as depression, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. ” Alexia Fernandez Campbell | The Atlantic  | July 25, 2016

District of Columbia

As the nation’s capital booms, poor tenants face eviction over as little as $25“District housing lawyers, however, see eviction lawsuits over small lease violations as one in an arsenal of quiet but aggressive pressure tactics landlords use to clear buildings before redevelopment; another is allowing units to deteriorate so people want to move out on their own.” Terrence McCoy | Washington Post  | August 8, 2016


Baltimore residents hit roadblocks in an effort to combat urban blight“’Do you ever want to simply commandeer a bulldozer yourself and go out and just knock them down?’” Noel King | NPR | August 10, 2016

A pervasive form of housing discrimination that’s still legal“[T]he Baltimore County Council considered a bill that would have barred landlords from turning away prospective renters based on how they come by their rent money.” Emily Badger | Washington Post | August 3, 2016


The city that unpoisoned its pipes“Lansing has shared its earned expertise with Flint as its neighbor to the east navigates what might be termed the fourth act of its water crisis. But its story resonates far beyond the state borders.” Anna Clark | Next City | August 8, 2016

As US housing recovers, low incomes keep Detroit far behind“A decade after the nation’s housing bubble peaked before bursting in a ruinous crash, much of America’s residential real estate has rebounded. Many owners have enjoyed rising equity and lower housing bills as mortgage rates have sunk. Yet Detroit is a glaring exception. Despite efforts by the mayor’s office, lenders and community groups, home values remain depressingly low.” Corey Williams | Associated Press | August 7, 2016

Thousands to board up homes, beautify park by Denby High“Up to 10,000 volunteers are expected to gather near Denby High School on Detroit’s east side all this week in a large-scale beautification campaign stretching 300 city blocks.” Daniel Bethencourt | Detroit Free Press | August 1, 2016

New York

Opinion: Land bank is paying dividends for Suffolk County“Officials assert that zombie homes, those neglected houses stuck in prolonged foreclosure proceedings, can be magnets for crime and drag down surrounding property values. But a new $13 million statewide initiative aims to give a select group of communities a helping hand to deal with the blight.” Aleesia Forni| Westfair Online | August 4, 2016


‘Blight fight’ ordinance would levy $200 fee on owners of vacant buildings“Revenue from the registration fees will also help code enforcement monitor abandoned property, vacant buildings and land, “assess the effects” those conditions have on nearby businesses and neighborhoods and “promote substantial efforts” to rehabilitate those properties, the ordinance reads.” Sam Galski | Standard Speaker | July 31, 2016


Memphis Property Hub using micro-level data to drive solutions“The micro-level data provided can be a game changer as the planning community continues its trend towards empowering neighborhood-level groups to advocate for the change they need in their own communities.” Madeline Faber | Memphis Daily News | August 8, 2016

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

Child attends back-to-school event

Child attends back-to-school event

A vacant lot transformed into family spot “ Owner of Sweet Peaches had turned an empty plot of grass on 18th and Muhammad Ali into a back-to-school hoorah, providing school supplies to kids in the Russell neighborhood.” WHAS | August 4, 2016