American Jobs Act's Project Rebuild Aims to Revitalize Vacant Homes

Originally posted on Huffington Post.

When the housing bubble popped in 2009, it left many American communities with foreclosed and vacant homes and businesses.

The American Jobs Act would help restore thousands of these abandoned properties and put construction workers back to work in the process with Project Rebuild. The $15 billion project would create thousands of jobs to tear down abandoned properties, renovate foreclosed homes and maintain abandoned properties until they can be sold once again. Intended to initially help communities with the largest number of foreclosed properties, Project Rebuild would create much-needed jobs and energize the country’s blighted communities at the same time. Key components of the project include:

  • Stabilizing communities by focusing on distressed commercial properties and redevelopment;
  • Federal funding to support for-profit development — when consistent with project aims and subject to strict oversight requirements;
  • Increased support for “land banking”;
  • Establishing property maintenance programs to create jobs and mitigate “visible scars” left by vacant/abandoned properties.

American Jobs Act would revitalize vacant properties with Project Rebuild

ForeclosureSmart Growth America supports President Obama’s call for federal investments that will create jobs, modernize America’s transportation infrastructure and support the country’s economy as part of the American Jobs Act. In particular, Smart Growth America supports Project Rebuild: Putting People Back to Work Rehabilitating Homes, Businesses and Communities, which has been allocated $15 billion under the proposed bill. From the White House’s description of the program:

The bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession that followed has left communities across the country with large numbers of foreclosed homes and businesses, which is weighing down property values, increasing blight and crime, and standing in the way of economic recovery. In these same communities there are also large numbers of people looking for work, especially in the construction industry, where more than 1.9 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The President is proposing Project Rebuild to help address both of these problems by connecting Americans looking for work in distressed communities with the work needed to repair and repurpose residential and commercial properties. Building on successful models piloted through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), Project Rebuild will invest $15 billion in proven strategies that leverage private capital and expertise to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of properties in communities across the country.


Smart growth news – September 6

Innovation key to cities in 21st century
The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 2, 2011
As former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy was about to sound a warning Friday to American cities about surviving in the 21st century, a large Navy vessel came into view as it sailed out of San Diego Bay. “What a spectacular city!” he said from the outdoor terrace of the San Diego Hilton Bayfront hotel. “I just want to turn around and see this ship go by.”

Sister cities share plans for downtown growth
Montgomery Advertiser (Ala.), September 4, 2011
Montgomery leaders have made the Alabama River a key ingredient for downtown redevelopment. Included so far have been a minor league baseball team housed in a $25 million stadium, and, a block away, the $200 million Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Conven­tion Center.

How should Syracuse transform its Inner Harbor?
The Post-Standard (N.Y.), September 4, 2011
Developers, architects and planners are citing the successful transformation of Syracuse’s Armory Square from rundown warehouses to trendy residential, retail and office buildings as the kind of mixed-use development that would work at the Syracuse Inner Harbor, the former state Barge Canal terminal the city will soon own.


Smart growth news – September 2

Why the US is unprepared for natural disasters
Public Radio International, September 1, 2011
Bad land-use, urban sprawl and cost-cutting measures by utilities leave US vulnerable to destruction caused by Hurricane Irene and other recent natural disasters.

City to involve county on urban rail planning; new city website shows projects
The Statesman (Texas), August 31, 2011
The city is proposing a system that would connect downtown with the University of Texas, the Mueller neighborhood and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. City leaders hope to put an urban rail bond proposal for hundreds of millions of dollars on the November 2012 ballot to help build the first piece of what city officials have said will be a $1.3 billion, 16.5-mile system. The city would build that initial segment with bond money, federal grants and possibly other sources.

Residents call for filling vacancies, keeping charm
TribLocal (Ill.), September 1, 2011
Filling vacant properties and preserving the Historic District topped residents’ priorities Wednesday as they helped the city create a new comprehensive plan.


Smart growth news – September 1

Obama pushes transport bills, says jobs at stake
Reuters, August 31, 2011
U.S. President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to quickly pass multibillion-dollar temporary funding bills for aviation and highway projects, saying inaction would needlessly cost jobs.

Indianapolis ‘Smart Growth’ paying off for blighted neighborhood
WTHR (Ind.), August 31, 2011
Residents in an area of the city that has been overlooked for years are starting to see encouraging changes. Houses are being renovated and apartments are going up just north of downtown between College Ave. and Andrew J. Brown and 16th and 25th streets.

Downtown seen on verge of new golden era
Crain’s New York Business, August 31, 2011
After a decade of turmoil triggered by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, lower Manhattan stands on the verge of a prosperous new era. Today it is primed for a dramatic resurgence as it adds new, modern office space, draws highly-educated workers, improves its transportation infrastructure and diversifies its tenant base, according to a new report by Jones Lang LaSalle.


Cleveland area land bank continues to innovate

Last year, we wrote about a first-of-its-kind agreement forged by the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Land Bank and Fannie Mae, the national mortgage lender that owns dozens of foreclosed properties in Ohio. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank, like other land banks across the country, is a quasi-governmental entity with the capacity to attain and manage vacant properties in the greater Cleveland area.

Through that partnership, Fannie Mae agreed to sell its most troubled foreclosed homes to the Land Bank for a nominal fee, and to help cover the costs of demolition for properties that were too far gone for the land bank to salvage.

Since that time, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has formalized relationships with a handful of additional lenders. Bank of America and Wells Fargo both joined the group this summer, pledging to donate vacant and foreclosed homes to the Land Bank and to help pay demolition costs ranging from $3,500 to $7,500.


Smart growth news – August 31

Stat of the Day: The Rise of the Renter
Advertising Age, August 29
One surprise from Census 2010 was the skewed distribution of household growth by age. Except for a small increase in millennial renters, virtually all of the 11 million unit household growth from 2000 to 2010 took place among baby boomer and older households. Towards the end of the decade leading up to the Census, millennials sharply slowed their rate of household formation. Adverse economic conditions meant that millions of them just remained living with their parents.

$1.4 Million Ranson-Charles Town Plan Making Major News
The State Journal (W.Va.), August 31, 2011
Federal grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation will pay for a seven-day series of intense workshops that begins Sept. 8 and will include a bevy of international experts. The end result, Brown said, will be a blueprint that makes Ranson and Charles Town thriving, green, livable communities for the coming century.

City plots plan for vacant properties
The Independent (Ohio), August 29, 2011
Plots of vacant land across the city likely will be turned over to adjacent property owners under the city’s proposed Vacant Land Re-Utilization Program.


Smart growth news – August 10

Detroit’s downtown ‘starting to fight back’
Washington Times, August 7, 2011
For the past seven months, geologist Dan Ten Brink has made his home in a loft in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, working at an upscale cafe to make ends meet while on the lookout for a more permanent job. He is part of a trend of young professionals who are relocating to Detroit.

Camden touts ‘Live Where You Work’ program
Courier-Post (N.J.), August 10, 2011
At a City Hall press conference Tuesday, city and state officials announced the availability of low-interest, fixed-rate home mortgages to prospective buyers who work in the city.

Young professionals drawn to urban living
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wis.), August 6, 2011
Bryan Cooper didn’t give much thought to where he’d live while working as an intern at GE Healthcare in Waukesha. But Cooper found that when he wasn’t at the office, he was spending a lot of time around downtown Milwaukee instead of hanging out at his suburban apartment.

Incentives, planned apartments heat up downtown rental market
Detroit News, August 10, 2011
With the launch of a major incentive program to lure more people to live in downtown Detroit, the rental market in the 48226 area code, which covers the central business district, promises to be competitive for at least the near future.


Smart growth news – August 4

Finding the Potential in Vacant Lots
New York Times, August 3, 2011
One abandoned yard is a mess; 20,000 abandoned yards is an ecosystem. At this scale, Cleveland’s vacant land begins to look less like a sign of neglect and more like an ecological experiment spread over some 3,600 acres…And vacancy creates more vacancy, said Bob Grossmann, 66, the director of Philadelphia Green, a program run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which has pioneered the management of urban vacant land. “There’s a cost to doing nothing,” he said.

San Diego County Targets Sprawl With New General Plan
KPBS (San Diego), August 3, 2011
San Diego County revised its general land-use plan today and took a major, long-awaited step toward reducing costs and slowing urban sprawl. The plan put more strict limits on development by down-zoning 20 percent of the properties in the county’s unincorporated areas.

D.C. Looks More Affordable In Light Of Commuting Costs
WAMU (D.C.), August 4, 2011
Despite higher housing costs, it may be actually be cheaper to live in the District and other urban centers, according to a D.C. government report released Aug. 3.

Protecting rural land, encouraging growth in town
Snohomish County Tribune (Wash.), August 3, 2011
TDR creates incentives for growth while conserving farms and forest lands that are important to the quality of life and identity of the region, Dennison said.


Smart growth news – August 3

Cities See the Other Side of the Tracks
New York Times, August 2, 2011
The High Line’s first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments. In the five years since construction started on the High Line, 29 new projects have been built or are under way in the neighborhood, according to the New York City Department of City Planning. More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space have gone up.

Bike share program coming to downtown areas of Oklahoma City
The Oklahoman, August 3, 2011
A bike share program like those embraced in other cities will be started later this year in downtown Oklahoma City. Such programs have “stations” where bicycles are checked in and out with a deposit placed on one’s credit card. A nominal charge is sometimes paid for use of the bicycles; final details of the downtown arrangements are pending negotiation of a vendor contract.

Residents fill long-empty Tempe tower
Arizona Republic, August 2, 2011
“They’ve taken an eyesore and turned it into an icon,” Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said of Zaremba finishing Tower 1 within six months of buying the property.

America’s Top Public Transportation Cities
Forbes’ The Jungle blog, August 1, 2011
To determine America’s top public transportation cities, we looked at estimates of the percent of workers 16 years of age or older who traveled from their community to work by public transportation from 2005 to 2009, provided in the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.