Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and problem properties – February 2, 2018

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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!

Mural in South Williamsburg, New York (Credit: NatureNature, flickr, 2012) 


Tax overhaul is a blow to affordable housing efforts“According to an analysis by [Novogradac & Company], the new tax law will reduce the growth of subsidized affordable housing by 235,000 units over the next decade, compounding an existing shortage.”Conor Dougherty | The New York Times | January 18, 2018

Low-income residents struggle with high heating bills, frozen pipes as frigid temperatures linger“Making matters worse, New England has a major shortage of affordable housing and a housing stock that is old and, in some cases, poorly insulated.”Katie Zezima | The Washington Post | January 5, 2018

Cities may be facing a new housing crisis“According to the report, nearly one in five renters were unable to pay the full amount of their rent for at least one month of a three-month period in 2017. Some 3.7 million Americans experienced an eviction at some point in 2017, and most of those renters earned less than $30,000 per year. “J. Brian Charles | Governing | January 4, 2018

Trump administration postpones an Obama fair-housing rule “The Department of Housing and Urban Development…says it will suspend until 2020 the requirement that communities analyze their housing segregation and submit plans to reverse it, as a condition of receiving billions of federal dollars in block grants and housing aid.”Emily Badger and John Eligon | The New York Times | January 4, 2018

Economic inequality and health inequality are inextricably linked“People surrounded by economic distress are less likely to lead healthy lifestyles, such as engaging in regular exercise or refraining from smoking. Geography compounds the problem: In our increasingly urban age, most economically distressed counties are sparsely populated places where access to quality healthcare facilities is limited.” John Lettieri and Steve Glickman | CityLab | December 5, 2017


Vacant, neglected, destructive: How Richmond’s abandoned homes became fire hazards “City officials and department leaders say they’re severely restrained by a lack of financial resources, inadequate staffing, and even state laws, which makes it difficult to deal with vacant and blighted properties.” Alex Nieves | Richmond Confidential | January 15, 2018

A rental registry is Fresno’s newest weapon in the battle to wipe out housing blight“‘It’s more important to get it right than to get it right now,’ [Mayor Lee] Brand said. ‘We’re now ready to start the registry process with the ultimate goal to protect the residents, honor our good landlords and put the bad ones on notice.'”Bonhia Lee | The Fresno Bee | January 10, 2018

New York

Op-Ed: NY’s land banks need long-term funding commitment from state“Lack of recurring, predictable funding forces land banks to limit the number of problem properties they can address, incentivizes short-term planning and projects over longer-term (and more impactful) strategic planning (including “land banking”), curtailing the potential of land banks intended under state law.” Katelyn Wright | syracuse.com | December 6, 2017

Puerto Rico 

The next crisis for Puerto Rico: A crush of foreclosures“About one-third of the island’s 425,000 homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments to banks and Wall Street firms that previously bought up distressed mortgages. Tens of thousands have not made payments for months. Some 90,000 borrowers became delinquent as a consequence of Hurricane Maria[.]”Matthew Goldstein | The New York Times | December 16, 2017


Black share of population plummets in some Nashville neighborhoods“Like the rest of the nation, Davidson County’s socio-economic divisions tend to fall along racial lines. Those who can afford the new and revamped housing surrounding downtown typically aren’t long-time black residents. Instead, they are leaving for more affordable outlying areas, while white buyers and renters are spreading throughout the core.”Mike Reicher | Tennessean | December 27, 2017

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

(Credit: Elina Mark)

Long Beach plans to best other Calif. cities in blight program“To help make Long Beach more successful than its predecessors, the city is approaching the issue of vacancy not just by offering incentives for taking part in the initiative, but also mandating consequences for vacant lot owners who don’t. Effective simultaneously with the opportunity for the UAIZ tax breaks is a $53 monthly penalty for all owners of vacant lots to help cover cleaning fees for plots that become dumping grounds.”Nina Feldman | Next City | December 1, 2017