D.C. Tightens Regulations on Vacant Properties

DC Properties

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!


Zombie Wars: State law aims to reduce blighted properties

Ohio vacant properties

A new state law is being viewed as a national model for eliminating zombies. Zombie properties, that is. A law taking effect Wednesday will speed up the process for foreclosing on vacant and abandoned properties – homes and other structures given their nickname for being left to languish like the living dead. The legislative solution, which was three years in the making, cleared the state Senate and House and was signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in June. It establishes a fast-track system that trims the foreclosure process from two years or more to as little as six months.

Backers say the speedier foreclosure procedure, tucked into a bill exempting certain natural gas sales from the state sales tax, also protects property owners’ rights by requiring at least three of 11 listed factors to be present before foreclosure can begin. Read more here!


Paducah, Kentucky Attracts Artists to Rehab Homes

Artists from all over America started coming in 2000 to buy and restore homes in Lowertown, Paducah, Kentucky’s oldest — and most blighted – neighborhood. The neighborhood is now home to more than 70 artists, thanks to the city’s artist relocation program which was made possible with the help of a locally owned bank that willing to take a chance on this untested idea. Click here for the full story.

“Artists are the kind of folks who see what can be,” Barnett said. “They see potential, and we knew that was what it was going to take when they came in to see the neighborhood in its current condition.”

A Reason to Love Urban Green Space: It Fights Crime

A new body of evidence reflects how urban nature affects crime.

The field of research is still young, but recent studies found significant associations between green space maintenance and certain types of crime in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Youngstown, Ohio. The exact mechanism is not yet known, but one theory relates to Jane Jacobs’ notion of “eyes on the street”: well-kept lawns and community plots encourage more people to spend time outside in those spaces, leading to a greater degree of informal surveillance of the area and deterring crime.

This research gives cities reasons to reassess policies about cleaning and greening vacant lots, developing parks, or catching stormwater in green installations. Beyond the ecological and aesthetic benefits, these investments create a safer environment for the people who live nearby. Click here for the full story.

Property Rescue Workshop in Buckhannon this Friday!

The Property Rescue Initiative (PRI) is a program of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) that provides $1 million in loan funding for communities to remove or rehabilitate dilapidated buildings.

This Friday, April 1, Buckhannon will host the final installment of a series of PRI workshops in 2016 that will help interested parties access PRI funding and provide technical assistance for locals to address abandoned buildings in their communities. Register now as space is limited.

Anyone interested in accessing a portion of the PRI funding pool to address dilapidated buildings in their community is encouraged to attend.

The full day workshop will feature guest speakers, interactive sessions on stakeholder engagement and the BAD Buildings process, and a panel of experts who will discuss creative ways to repay loans and reuse problem properties. Registration is $15.

Have You Explored Our Tools Section Lately?

Need to contact a property owner about a problem property and not sure where to start? Looking to demolish or deconstruction a property? What about starting a beautification program? Browse the many tools on this website based on your project type, including:

  • Mobilize community and develop inventory
  • Reuse a property
  • Prevent blight
  • Develop a beautification program
  • Analyze maps and data
  • Build your partnership network

Or, click here to find a full list of the tools offered through wvbadbuildings.org.

Connect with Communities Facing Similar Challenges through the Redevelopment Expert Exchange

Do you have a have a redevelopment success story to share with a fellow West Virginia community? Or, are you looking for a similar community to share lessons learned?

The Redevelopment Expert Exchange (RE2) facilitates redevelopment experience-sharing between West Virginia communities. The program matches redevelopment leaders from across the state with communities facing similar opportunities and challenges, allowing them to learn from the best practices and experiences of their peers across the state. RE2 is also offering a series of webinars throughout 2016 — we will keep you posted once they are announced.

Here are some example topics communities have exchanged:

  • Attracting developers
  • Engaging the media
  • Creating urban redevelopment authorities (URAs)
  • Establishing land reuse agencies
  • Structuring public-private partnerships


Read this success story about Wheeling’s successful Vacant Property Registration which they presented to Fairmont through an exchange facilitated by RE2.

re_2_logo_FINALTo learn more about how the WV Redevelopment Expert Exchange works or to request a match in your community, click here.


RE2 is a program of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center.

What is Creative Placemaking?

If you’re in the business of addressing dilapidated and abandoned buildings, you obviously care about and want to improve a place. Placemaking is both a philosophy and process that involves the planning, design, and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets and potential to create public spaces that promote health, happiness, and well being.

Creative placemaking projects aim to deeply engage the arts, culture, and creativity — especially from underrepresented communities — so that the resulting communities better reflect and celebrate local culture, heritage and values.

The Project for Public Spaces offers resources and tips to find affordable and effective solutions to improve a place. They offer ideas tailored to governments, communities, and individuals for how you can take action to improve your public space.

Recently, Transportation For America also developed an interactive guide that includes eight basic approaches to creative placemaking to get you started. Each approach includes inspiring and concrete local examples and detailed resources. Scroll to the bottom to choose an approach.

What Comes After Demolition?

One approach to improving your community is to demolish a vacant or abandoned building. But what happens with the vacant lot? It’s best to have a plan in place for the reuse of the site, because an abandoned empty lot can also contribute to blight — adding to the same problems you are trying to avoid by taking down a property. Some communities, for instance, have turned to “green” solutions such as establishing a mini park.

Alam Mallach, city planner, writer and senior fellow with the Center For Community Progress, wrote a study that looks at best practices for demolition. Click here to listen to a 10-minute conversation that highlights his findings.

Here’s a link to his study, titled “Laying the Groundwork For Change: Demolition, Urban Strategy, and Policy Reform.

WVU Offers Legal Tools to Combat Blight

In case you missed it — the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic at West Virginia University recently published a toolkit to help communities navigate the thorny issues around abandoned and neglected buildings. Click here for the background story. 

To explore the online legal toolkit, which is called “From Liability to Viability: A Legal Toolkit to Address Neglected Properties in West Virginia,” or to download a free PDF, visit the LEAP website.