In the wake of a major housing crisis and rising foreclosure rates, American cities and towns are experiencing a glut of vacant properties. Once a sign of urban blight, empty lots and abandoned buildings now mark the landscape of neighborhoods in rural and suburban areas as well, negatively impacting housing values, tax revenues, crime rates, and more. The sheer scale of the issue has helped bring national attention to the challenges these properties present, and the need for new solutions to blight and disinvestment.
On Friday, the Center for Community Progress released Restoring Properties, Rebuilding Communities: Transforming Vacant Properties in Today’s America. The report, completed with writing and research help from Smart Growth America, offers a systemic look at the legacy of vacant properties in many of our older towns and cities, as well as new vacancy trends, and some of the innovative initiatives that have been implemented to address these trends.
In fact, there are many reasons to be hopeful. While vacant properties can present challenges, they also represent enormous opportunities to improve housing, businesses and the environment. Public-private partnerships like the Minnesota Foreclosure Partners Council, federal efforts like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and state policies like Texas’ 2009 law which allows community groups to file receivership actions against dangerous properties and transform them into decent, safe, affordable housing, are among the many new efforts detailed in the report.
“We need to focus on vacant and abandoned properties not just as a problem, but as a resource,” says Dan Kildee, president of the Center for Community Progress, “Vacant houses can be turned back into homes. Obsolete factories can become incubators for emerging technologies. Even older cities that are losing population can maintain strong downtowns and neighborhoods and also replace blighted areas with green space.”
Restoring Properties is a new resource for practitioners, policymakers, and community members working to advance vacant property reclamation with those ends in mind. Click here to download the full report.