Headlines: The latest on vacant, abandoned, and problem properties – October 13, 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!

Downtown Schenectady, NY (Credit: Luke Telander for Center for Community Progress, 2014)


Why so many poor Americans don’t get help paying for housing  “The Mengs are just one of millions of families across the U.S. that are struggling to find affordable housing. The government has established several housing assistance programs to help them, but the vast majority of poor Americans don’t receive any housing aid.” Andrew Flowers | FiveThirtyEight | September 16, 2016 


New Castle County seeks remedies for ‘zombie’ homes “ReVaMP — short for “Remediating, Vacancies. Making Progress” — will provide a $5,000 loan for settlement and downpayment assistance on the purchase of a home vacant for more than 90 days. The loan will be forgiven if the purchaser lives in the home for five years.”  Xerxes Wilson | delawareonline | September 11, 2016


Block-by-block blight fight nearly halves vacancies in Chicago neighborhood “Through a series of block-by-block targeted interventions, NHS takes over abandoned properties, spruces them up, helps buyers secure financing to renovate them, and eventually turns them over to owner occupants.’” Rachel Kaufman | Next City | September 29, 2016


Jobs must be in the mix in Baltimore’s vacant rowhouse rehab“The unrest also highlighted the enduring stability of one intersection that Elder Harris and other local residents have spent the past two decades reclaiming.”Jen Kinney | Next City | September 30, 2016


Urban solar farm in Detroit will power more than 450 homes “The DTE Energy installation of more than 6,500 solar panels will provide enough electricity to power more than 450 homes. It is on long-vacant city property that historically consisted of a playground and sports fields.” Robert Allen | Detroit Free Press | September 16, 2016


Transforming vacant schools into affordable housing for teachers “In a bid to keep teachers from leaving the city for the suburbs, St. Louis Public Schools plans to turn the shuttered Wilkinson School back into a place for educators — not with classrooms, but with affordable housing.” Jen Kinney | Next City | October 10, 2016

New York

Illuminating blight in Upstate New York “’Breathing Lights‘ will illuminate hundreds of buildings across Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, drawing attention to the widespread issue of blight and calling for a tangible path to revitalization. Eillie Anzilotti | CityLab | September 30, 2016

A right to a lawyer to save your home “Now, New York City, where affordable housing is in cripplingly short supply, could become the first jurisdiction in the country to require lawyers for all lower-income people facing eviction. This new approach, by some estimates, could even save the city money.” Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery | The New York Times | September 23, 2016

Sale of federal mortgages to investors puts greater burden on Blacks, suit says “Redlining has long been outlawed, but in New York City, the federal government is again disproportionately hurting black homeowners, according to a federal lawsuit filed by a nonprofit that represents low-income New Yorkers. This time, the suit says, the government is fueling racial disparities not through its lending policies but in how it handles foreclosures.” The Editorial Board | The New York Times | August 14, 2016


Teens take aim at lead poisoning crisis with ‘Forgotten Homes’ track “It was the imagery that seemed to stick with teens. What they saw all around them. And knowing that the paint, peeling and flaking off the sides of homes was spreading poison to places where children in their neighborhoods walk and play.” Rachel Dissell | Cleveland.com | September 22, 2016


Portland promotes deconstruction over demolition “This summer, the city council unanimously passed an ordinance expected to triple the number of buildings that are manually deconstructed — rather than mechanically demolished — each year.” Jen Kinney | Next City | September 1, 2016


Blight-fighting tactic found to double nearby real estate values “The study, conducted by May 8 Consulting and Reinvestment Fund, found that the scattered-site model delivered far more bang for the buck on several fronts.”  Sandy Smith | Next City | October 5, 2016

West Virginia

Tax-lien sales can ignore Charleston’s most neglected properties“As Charleston’s Building Commission scrambles to consistently update its vacant building registry — a list of roughly 400 empty, blighted properties in the city — it’s losing the battle of addressing those that have been cycled through the tax lien system.” Elaina Sauber | Charleston Gazette-Mail | September 24, 2016

Loopholes mean tax-lien system no ‘silver bullet’ for vacant buildings  “While there’s no clear silver bullet in sight, local groups such as Charleston’s Strong Neighborhoods Task Force are weighing the costs and benefits of potentially creating a land reuse agency in the city.” Elaina Sauber | Charleston Gazette-Mail | September 26, 2016

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

Bright Spot

(Credit: House Life)

Artists bring slow, neighborly approach to tackling blight“Tensions may still simmer where neighborhood revitalization and artists and the arts intersect, but when it comes to blight, block by block, creativity is often a good business proposition.” Jen Kinney | Next City | October 12, 2016