Restoring Properties, Rebuilding Communities

Transforming Vacant Properties in Today’s America

Author(s): Center for Community Progress

Vacant properties have been an almost exclusively local concern, dealt with by city inspectors and tax officials on a building-by-building basis. Until now. In the face of a dramatically changed landscape, they are starting to recognize that our communities will not thrive if we continue to use the strategies of the past, going project by project, deal by deal. To stem the flow of abandonment and reverse that trend in order to use tens of thousands of properties in productive ways, every sector—the public, private, and “third” (nonprofit and philanthropy) sectors—will have to play a strategic and intentional role to reshape how we deal with properties, how we acquire land, manage it, and dispose of it for reuse.

This report offers a systemic look at the problem and evaluates actions that can be taken by federal, state and local governments, as well as community organizations, private foundations and real estate developers to stem the tide of increasing vacancy rates and meet the challenges presented by already vacant properties. The scope and determination of thousands of local stakeholders is impressive, but their efforts are often scattered, small in scale, and unlikely to lead to long-term, sustained change.

Policymakers and community leaders across the country need to go beyond these efforts, recognize the magnitude of the problem, and focus on the fundamental changes in laws, policies and practices that are needed if we are to tackle the problem at the scale it demands.

Above all, we need to focus on vacant and abandoned properties not just as a problem, but as a resource, one that we can use to build stronger, healthier communities.

Madison Gharghoury, Development Associate and Special Assistant to the President/CEO

Published: October 2010

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