Friday, June 27, 2014

Dealing with Vacant Properties in Your Community

Have you ever walked by a boarded up, vacant property in your neighborhood and thought “I wish someone would fix that place up?” 

Neglected vacant properties are a problem in communities across the country. They are often piled up with trash and debris, boarded up, and can often be the locale for criminal activity.  But unfortunately, such vacant properties have surfaced in neighborhoods in unprecedented numbers since the advent of the recent foreclosure crisis. Whether it be a bank owned property, a property abandoned by its owners, or simply old industrial or commercial sites with seemingly no use, a vacant property can often become eyesore and a danger to the community in which it is located.  A vacant property can also end up costing cities thousands of dollars in lost property taxes as well as from responding to 311 calls from neighbors citing criminal activity and the need for fire abatement. Often, vacant properties are located in the same neighborhood, compounding the negative outcomes for the community. 

But vacant and blighted properties don’t have to be a seemingly endless burden on communities. In fact, cities and communities can use these vacant spaces as a resource for community change using the right creative approach. The Center for Community Progress is an organization devoted entirely to helping communities turn their “vacant places into vibrant spaces.”  One of the ways the organization does this is through its web-based Building American Cities Toolkit™. The toolkit is meant to be used by community actors who wants to address vacant cities in their community and has four main elements:

•             Dealing with problem property owners 
•             Building stronger neighborhoods
•             Reusing vacant properties; and 
•             Taking control of and managing problem properties

The toolkit offers ways to implement real strategies that have worked in the past; everything from cracking down on problem property owners to how to evaluate a vacant site for potential reuse. 

Does this sound like something you can use in your community?  Want more advice from experts and a chance to have your concerns answered and addressed?  You can also plan to attend their Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in May 2015, which will be held in Detroit, MI, to learn more about how to combat blight and put vacant properties to good use in your neighborhood.  

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