Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and problem properties – December 1, 2017

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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!

This is the last Headlines blog for 2017. Stay tuned! Headlines will return in January 2018.

Downtown Muskegon, Michigan (Credit: Michigan Municipal League, flickr, 2017)


Three U.S. banks make $20 billion community reinvestment promise“Three banks in three different regions collectively promised nearly $20 billion in home mortgages, small business loans, community development financing, and charitable contributions, as part of negotiations that included hundreds of community-based organizations in each region that were completed over the past month.”Oscar Perry Abello | Next City | November 14, 2017

The fight over fair housing goes to court (again)“When vouchers were funded based on broader metro averages, ‘you’d have people who would not be able to move into certain, more expensive parts, because you were taking the area as a whole,’ says [Amjel Quereshi]. ‘Given that the majority of voucher holders are minorities, the [suspension] of the rule is going to continue this pattern in which voucher holders that are primarily minority are segregated in certain areas.'” Teresa Mathew | CityLab | November 7, 2017


San Jose to push landlords in the blight fight “San Jose already has a citywide vacant building monitoring program, but the new program aims to help city staff better stay on top of blight in the city’s main business corridors. The registry would be managed by San Jose’s code enforcement division, who would inspect the properties on the registry every three months — to the tune of $202 paid by the landlords — to make sure the building is kept free from graffiti and weeds and well lit.”Kelsey E. Thomas | Next City | November 7, 2017


Mission accomplished: Anti-blight effort cleans up Cleveland Avenue in Hartford “‘Cleveland is a vibrant street and a vibrant neighborhood, and now that this has been addressed, the street is done,’ [Laura Settlemyer] said, adding that the demolition makes the street essentially blight free. ‘This is a model for our block-by-block approach of dealing with blight, but our true goal is to get to a property before it needs to be demolished in the first place.'”Vinny Vella | Hartford Courant | November 1, 2017


How Airbnb is pushing locals out of New Orleans’ coolest neighborhoods “In Treme and several other neighborhoods across this historic city, residents say their neighbors are vanishing, pushed out by rapid, Airbnb-fueled gentrification. Desirable neighborhoods are turning into de facto tourist districts inhabited by visitors from around the world. A few renters have been kicked out to make way for travelers. Rents and home prices are up. The sound of suitcases rolling along the sidewalk has become as familiar in certain neighborhoods as brass bands, ambulance sirens and bounce music.” Emily Peck and Charles Maldonado | Huffington Post | October 30, 2017


Detroit: From Motor City to housing incubator “What is truly surprising…is how difficult it still is for buyers to actually buy. Basically, prices are too low for lenders (who see the deals as too small or risky) but too high for buyers (who may be cash-poor). There aren’t enough houses in move-in-ready condition — and not enough money to fix them up.”Matthew Goldstein | The New York Times | November 4, 2017

New York

NYC advocates say it’s past time to count vacant properties“[H]ousing advocates in New York City have asked for the city to establish a definitive, ongoing count of vacant lots and vacant housing units in the city. Their hope has been that counting up all that space would help create public and private pressure to use it to address the city’s growing homelessness crisis, with an estimated 62,351 people in the city’s shelter system each night, and another 3,900 or so sleeping on the streets.” Oscar Perry Abello | Next City | November 15, 2017


How a tool of housing segregation made a comeback in Cleveland“In a recent analysis of the land contracts recorded with the County since 2010, [Frank Ford] found that about 24% of them had failed in some way: either the properties were vacant, condemned, or had thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes (a sign the property may have been abandoned). Numbers like that are why the National Consumer Law Center calls land contracts, which also go by “contracts for deed” or “rent-to-own” arrangements, a form of predatory lending.”Editor | WOSU Radio | November 20, 2017


Lawmakers call for banning landlords who owe back taxes and building code fines from buying at sheriff’s sales “One bill would ban people and companies who owe back taxes and building code fines from buying foreclosed properties at sheriff’s sales, according to letters seeking additional bill sponsors that were circulated among state lawmakers on Tuesday. The second bill would allow counties to conduct the sheriff’s sales online instead of in courthouses or other government buildings, as has been the practice for generations.”Cary Spivak, Kevin Crowe, and Mary Spicuzza | Journal Sentinel | November 1, 2017

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

Take a stroll through Detroit’s urban agrihood “[Michigan Urban Farming Initiative] is working on renovating a three-story blighted building into a community center near the farm. In the video, a recent home buyer in the area discusses the appeal of living near a farm like this in an urban environment, noting its proximity and easy access to attractions in the city—the Qline and the Fisher Building are just a few blocks away.” Robin Runyan, Sam Reichman, and Logan Siegel | Curbed Detroit | November 15, 2017