Preventing blight in your community
Blight is the process through which a previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude. This negatively impacts communities by increasing infrastructure costs, posing environmental and safety hazards, demoralizing communities, and slowing local economic development.
While much of this site’s resources are dedicated to correcting problem properties that already exist, prevention of blight—particularly by preventing vacancy and dilapidated buildings—is a key step to creating a sustainable, vibrant community.
The below list is an overview. For more in-depth suggestions for preventing blight through legal tools refer to the WV LEAP Toolkit created by the WVU Land Use and Sustainable Development Clinic.
Adopt a Legal Framework
Adopt a legal framework to hold properties to clear standards. This involves enacting the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) or adopting individual ordinances based on the code, such as ordinances against the accumulation of trash.
Require Owners to Register Properties
Require owners to register rental, vacant and foreclosed properties. This will help your municipality to better monitor conditions. Through registration, require owners to provide contact information, pay an annual fee, and learn their responsibilities under code.
Require Improvements Within a Specific Time Frame
Require buyers to bring properties up to code within a specific time frame after sale, require pre-sale inspections, and disqualify tax-sale bidders who have tax delinquencies or code violations.
Offer Grants and Loans
Offer certain grants and loans to low-income or elderly homeowners or small landlords who lack the money to keep their properties up to code. This will allow them to make needed repairs to keep their properties inhabitable and occupied. These can be funded through federal grants such as from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development or through a local bank. See funding resources for more information.
Use Fines, Permit Denials or Criminal Charges
Use fines, permit denials or criminal charges to encourage repair and maintenance for severely blighted properties that threaten health and safety.
Local community service directory [click to download]
A simple way to begin a prevention strategy is to let owners/renters know of the programs that might help them keep their homes or businesses by distributing a directory of services. This is a list of suggested services to include.
Property Owner Expectations and Responsibilities [coming soon]
Few owners or managers of chronic nuisance property have harmful intentions. Many will improve management approaches if they are shown how. These are some suggestions for information to provide owners, to educate them on their responsibilities to maintain the health and safety of their properties.
Friendly Letter Template [click to download]
Use this letter to initiate a conversation with the owner of an abandoned/dilapidated property.
A land bank is a public authority created to efficiently hold, manage and develop tax-foreclosed property. West Virginia recently passed the SB579 Land Banks bill, however the creation of an Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is a more effective route.
Municipalities are encouraged to set aside a certain amount of money that is specifically dedicated to the goal of preventing blight. This could be designated as a city budget line item, or through the creation of an Urban Renewal Authority (URA), which invests in property redevelopment. Charleston, West Virginia is a good example whose URA has engaged in a number of projects to stimulate neighborhood revitalization; learn more about them here.