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

Block in historic Corn Hill in Rochester, New York. (Credit: Chelsea Allinger for the Center for Community Progress, 2014)



Income inequality is making rent even less affordable “Overall, however, income inequality has been associated with increased rent burdens. And both are growing together. The level of inequality in America for both market income and disposable income, is greater today than at any point in the past 40 years. And the study finds a steep increase in rent burdens over the period analyzed.”Richard Florida | CityLab | August 24, 2017

Battling blight: four ways cities are using data to address vacant properties  “In response to what has proved to be an urgent urban crisis, cities are deploying a wide range of digital and data-driven strategies to address vacant and abandoned properties. From using data to drive efficiency in code enforcement to crowdsourcing the mapping of properties, cities across the country are making significant strides in the battle against blight.” Eric Bosco | Future Structure | August 21, 2017

Small banks made a $550 million-plus difference in distressed neighborhoods “As a group, the banks provided $550.8 million in loans to 3,181 businesses and $37 million in loans to 2,193 residents in target communities in 2015. The target communities are census tracts where at least 30 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line and the unemployment rate is at least 1.5 times the national rate.” Oscar Perry Abello | Next City | August 21, 2017

Millions of poor families could benefit from the housing aid Trump wants to cut “In response to his agency’s report, [Ben] Carson issued a statement touting a more “businesslike approach,” including reducing regulatory barriers at the federal, state and local levels to drive down the cost of producing more affordable housing in the private market. But affordable housing advocates say the Trump administration’s approach will only make the crisis worse. ‘As it is, there is not enough housing assistance for all the households that are eligible and they are proposing to cut it back even more,’ said Andrew Aurand, vice president of research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition.”Tracy Jan | The Washington Post | August 10, 2017


Section 8 tenants treated ‘like garbage’ during troubled renovations “Financed by county bonds and encouraged by the federal government, the sale and ensuing renovation of Civic Towers was supposed to bring dilapidated apartments up to snuff… But six months after work launched, tenants are living among exposed wires and piping, rats, and boarded-up windows that allow water to seep into hallways when it rains.”David Smiley and Sydney Pereira | Miami Herald | August 12, 2017


Atlanta’s Planning Department makeover“The previous signage system ‘appeared to be designed by lawyers,’ says Blake Howard, the project’s creative director. ‘The language was hard to understand, jumping off the page at the same time. It wasn’t very visually appealing.’ The ethos of the rebranding is “To Be Clear is To Be Kind.” ‘If we want to be kind to the public,’ [Blake] Howard says, ‘we want them to be able to understand what the purpose of the sign is.'”Teresa Mathew | CityLab | August 17, 2017


Why a Chicago artist is connecting blight to gold bricks “The gold bars inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago right now might remind visitors of Fort Knox. But it’s faux bullion: Artist Amanda Williams works with a team of assistants, colleagues and relatives to meticulously brush salvaged bricks with imitation leaf. Sourced from demolished buildings, Williams’ gold aims to quickly communicate an important question in cities navigating blight, preservation and revitalization: How should we assess the value of architecture in distressed neighborhoods?”Cassie Owens | Next City | August 22, 2017


City of Reno will help homeowners fix blighted houses with Neighborhood Renewal Program  “[R]eno city officials have set aside $225,000 from the general fund to hand out to low-income families who may need help repairing their homes. Those repairs could be anything from fixing a falling fence or repainting a house to reconnecting a broken sewer line or landscaping a front yard.” Olivia DeGennaro | KRNV 4 | August 16, 2017

New York

Can connecting rent to income, not market rates, change the affordability of cities?“But the structure of the CLT model adds something new to the city’s affordable housing landscape: a permanent bulwark against gentrification. By giving resident, community-led organizations permanent jurisdiction over a section of property, CLTs ensure that lower-income residents retain representation in community development decisions, and stand in the way of developers unilaterally bulldozing neighborhoods for the sake of profit-by-gentrification.” Eillie Anzilotti | Fast Company | August 18, 2017


The case for saving the small black city“The next move for [Marita] Garrett is dealing with the blighted properties that cover roughly a fifth of all of the borough’s properties and bringing them back into commerce. A demolition plan is in place for those abandoned properties. Garrett’s agenda is clearly pro-growth, and she knows she’ll have to draw in new residents to make that happen. However, she’s also aware that those kinds of agendas often end up triggering the kind of massive messy gentrification woes that mayors today are feverishly trying to avoid.” Brentin Mock | CityLab | August 9, 2017

And, Lastly, a Blight Bright Spot!

(Credit: Candice Jones-Anderson)

Gary artists go from photographing abandoned buildings to saving them “The Decay Devils are just getting started. They cleaned up the area around Union Station with community support, and covered the windows with colorful paintings made by local graffiti artists and muralists. Earlier this month, they held an event featuring food, artists, music and games to celebrate their beautification efforts. Anderson says art is an important tool for drawing people to these spaces. Many in the community are understandably wary of spending time around these abandoned buildings.”Nina Feldman | Next City | August 25, 2017