Attacking Blight from Vacant and Abandoned Buildings

As the foreclosure crisis continues and the real estate market goes into its triple dip, one issue that cities of all sizes face is a growing catalog of vacant buildings adding to the urban blight and crime that is plaguing many neighborhoods today.  Google 'vacant building ordinances' and you will be overwhelmed with the search results listing all the cities that have passed such an ordinance. Typically, these ordinances require property owners to keep vacant properties (empty for a specified time period, such as 30, 60 or 90 days and meeting other characteristics that triggers the law's application) secure and in good repair. A failure to maintain the property as legally required leads to significant fines. Some cities such as Sacramento event posts a sign on the property publicly identifying the name, address and phone number of the property owner.  Other cities such as Chicago and Boston, place similar burdens on the lenders holding the mortgages for the vacant properties.

The problem with the above attempts at solving the vacant blight are they only work when you have property owners who care enough and have the resources to take care deteriorating buildings so as to avoid the fines. When you have owners that are financially unable to comply, or simply don't care, and the lenders have yet to have legal title/control that would enable them to address the property issues, the vacant properties fall into limbo.

In Illinois, lenders are working with state and local officials to change the state's foreclosure laws to streamline the foreclosure process, enabling mortgage lenders to take control more quickly and secure the properties from further deterioration. However, this doesn't always help either when the lender has no interest in foreclosing and taking control of the abandoned property.

Here in Northern Ohio a movement has been building to establish land reutilization corporations, a.k.a. "land banks". One such organization that works with local governments to establish the land banks, is the Thriving Communities Institute, part of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy based in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  Land banking involves the accumulation of vacant and abandoned properties by various and versatile methods. Once accumulated, the properties can be held by the county land bank, tax free, until the land can be put back to productive use.

 Local governments have to get creative to keep the blight from vacant and abandoned buildings under control.  Here's to hoping some the above solutions are successful.


Unknown said...

The problem is that the local government is not giving much attention to this kind of issues. They simply says they will do everything they got, but in the long run it will be forgotten.

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Teyona @ Real Estate Park City said...

"Local governments have to get creative to keep the blight from vacant and abandoned buildings under control."

I agree with Dave, this kind of issue must be realized by the government. These buildings will eventually an place to live.