Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference Champions Economic and Environmental Revitalization

Vacant Properties Conference 2010

Investing in and reusing vacant properties can catalyze long-term, sustainable revitalization in a community. Focusing on the multiple benefits these projects bring to neighborhoods and local economies, the Center for Community Progress’ Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference kicked off this week in Cleveland, Ohio. The annual conference brings together a diversity of leaders working on community development issues to make our neighborhoods stronger and healthier.

Recent challenges like the U.S. foreclosure crisis, the economic downturn, and constraints on state and local budgets have elevated vacant property issues to new prominence. As the conference has helped illustrate, this attention to vacant properties and urban revitalization is helping usher in unprecedented innovations in local, state, and federal policy.

In Detroit, Mayor Bing has formed a partnership with foundations, faith-based organizations, and community members to develop a new strategy to integrate land use, economic development, and the provision of social services in a now smaller city, including developing a light rail line along one of the city’s major corridors from Hart Plaza to Wayne State University.

In New Jersey, the recently passed Creditor Responsibility Law ensures that a lender who initiates a home foreclosure in the Garden State is held responsible for the upkeep of that home during the sometimes lengthy foreclosure process, preventing the blight and deterioration that can occur when an owner leaves and the bank hasn’t yet taken legal ownership.

Advocates in Pennsylvania and New York are working to pass land banking legislation that will allow localities access to stronger tools to reclaim and reuse vacant properties, while counties in Ohio are beginning to implement the land banks that the state’s 2009 legislation authorized.

And at the federal level, the Obama Administration has recently announced its Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (PDF), which will coordinate programming at five different federal agencies including the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Justice, to implement place-based strategies to improve communities: providing affordable housing, targeting crime, and improving educational opportunities as part of a set of coordinated, place-based strategies.

Smart Growth America is proud of the success of this year’s Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference. As one of the founding organizations of the National Vacant Properties Campaign (now the Center for Community Progress), we applaud the ongoing work advocates and policymakers are doing to help make neighborhoods great across the country.

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