The Abandoned Properties Coalition is tackling a widespread issue across West Virginia and is requesting information about vacant schools across the state. Do you know know of a vacant school in your community?
PHOTO – A dilapidated home within the city of Fairmont
In Fairmont, over 300 buildings sit vacant, abandoned or dilapidated.
Some have sat for years in disrepair after their owners died or moved away. Others are owned by heirs who live out of state, and simply forgot about them.
But the residents who live next to them and the city government which has authority over them haven’t forgot.
“As people moved out, who was there to maintain their properties?” City Manager Robin Gomez said. “For many of them, nobody did.”
In the five-and-a-half decades since Jane Jacobs published “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” her core contention — that urban vitality and safety are a function of small-scale density, a mixture of uses and “eyes on the street” — has become conventional wisdom in urban theory. But the impact that that notion has enjoyed can be attributed, in large part, to the poetic force of Jacobs’ delivery: The idea that an active “sidewalk ballet” makes neighborhoods safe as well as vibrant seems to jibe with daily experience. Can data bear it out?
According to a new study, maybe.
West Virginia’s historic rehabilitation tax credit was put in place to encourage developers and property owners to take some of the state’s crumbling, historic structures and get them back into working order. The credit is also supposed to encourage the creation of local jobs while repurposing the underutilized buildings.
But the state’s tax credit is 10 percent, and a coalition of architects, economic developers, and others say that’s not enough to encourage the community development they’d like to see. That same group is now traveling the state looking for support as they prepare to ask state lawmakers to increase the tax credit.
It may soon be more expensive — and more difficult — for a property owner to slowly sit on vacant or blighted property in the District. The D.C. Council will take a final vote Nov. 15 on the Vacant Property Enforcement Act of 2016, which was unanimously approved in its first pass by the council on Nov. 1. The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Elissa Silverman , I-At large, and co-introduced by nine colleagues, would reduce the maximum amount of time a vacant property can qualify for an exemption from higher vacancy tax rates, close a loophole that allows continuous renewal of construction permits to qualify for tax exemptions and require owners of vacant properties to prove they are no longer subject to the higher tax rates. Read more here!
It will soon become harder for landlords to neglect vacant or blighted properties under a bill the D.C. Council unanimously passed today.
The measure—first introduced by At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman and co-sponsored by nine of her colleagues in December—seeks to maintain such buildings at higher property tax rates (5 and 10 percent more than standard for those determined to be vacant and blighted, respectively) until owners affirmatively prove to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that they’ve abated issues. Current law requires that DCRA verify that buildings are vacant or blighted every six months, even when an owner has not indicated that they’ve made improvements. This has led to inconsistent enforcement of property laws and consumed inspectors’ time. Read more here!
WHEELING — Rep. David B. McKinley said Wednesday he’ll work with West Virginia’s next governor to push for expanded historic rehabilitation tax credits, while pressing Congress to follow suit. McKinley, R-W.Va., said these credits incentivize private development, and they advocate for the restoration of dormant downtown districts…He cited several local properties revived because of tax credits, and said these buildings now contribute to the revitalization of Wheeling. “How a community treats its downtown is a manifestation of how it thinks about economic development,” McKinley said. “It hurts me every time I see another building come down because I know they could be restored.” Read more here!
A motion made during Thursday’s Clarksburg City Council meeting to award a project bid to Reclaim Co. of Fairmont will help rid the city of blighted properties. Six structures will be razed in the demolition and asbestos abatement project, all located within the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) district. The city received three bids for the project, which were opened Tuesday, and Reclaim Co. submitted the lowest bid at $89,998.
“This demolition property will continue our goal to eliminate a lot of the slum and blight,” City Manager Martin Howe said. “All of these structures that will be taken down, a majority of them have entered into agreements with the property owners to have them razed. For the overall improvement of the city, it’s a great program to continue.” Read more here!
Community homesteading programs encourage individuals and families to purchase, renovate, and reside in vacant and dilapidated homes by offering a financial incentive (e.g. loan, grant, tax break, or other monetary benefit). Potential benefits include:
- Rehabilitation of vacant and dilapidated homes;
- Rebuilding the tax base;
- Economic diversification through sector development;
- Substantial return on investment.
West Virginia delegates introduced a bill to create a homesteading pilot program during the 2016 legislative session. While the bill died, there’s a possibility it could be reintroduced next year, and interest is certainly building. This article highlights different examples of the forms a successful homesteading program can take from around the region. Click here for the full story.
On March 2, Patrick Kirby, director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University, provided testimony on the BUILD Act before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. The hearing focused on Senate Bill 1479, Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2015, Senate Bill 2446, Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2016 and Discussion Draft of Good Samaritan Cleanup of Orphan Mines Act of 2016.
In his testimony, Kirby discussed why the BUILD Act matters. Specifically, he noted that the BUILD Act expands the eligibility of certain types of property to apply for brownfields funds, expands eligible applicants to include non-profit organizations which are often the entity in the community best suited to help move the project forward and eliminated the prohibition of the use of the funds to cover administrative costs, which can be a large task.