Happy New Year from all of us at the National Vacant Properties Campaign!
News from the Campaign and Our Partners
News About Reclaiming Vacant Properties: Building Leadership to Restore Communities
Watch your mailboxes in January for news about registration for the 2009 Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference. The program will be posted soon and registration will begin in a few weeks. Make sure to register by April 17th to receive the reduced rate!
Making Progress in New Orleans
As the New Orleans Vacant Properties Initiative (a joint venture between the Campaign and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation) enters its second year, we continue to provide expertise and support to the important neighborhood recovery efforts of several City agencies in New Orleans. The Initiative works most closely with the City's Office of Recovery and Development Administration (ORDA) and the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), the agencies that are securing, maintaining, acquiring, and facilitating development of thousands of abandoned properties scattered around the city. Specific areas of focus in 2008 have included code enforcement enhancements, construction financing strategies, and program development with NORA. As NORA begins to disburse hundreds of properties acquired from the State through the Road Home Program to nonprofit and for-profit developers, and ORDA continues to streamline code enforcement - made possible through significant improvements to its housing and building code - city leaders are optimistic that greater tangible improvements in neighborhoods will be seen in the short term.
With the generous support of the Rockefeller, Greater New Orleans, Surdna, and Ford Foundations, the Initiative now has a two-person staff and taps into the expertise of a dozen outside experts. The coming year will be critical in New Orleans, as the City seeks to institutionalize the systems in place to address vacant properties to ensure progress into the future. Relying on LISC's expertise, the Initiative is expanding its reach in 2009 to include increased real estate development assistance to developers working with City agencies, to ensure that improved vacant properties programs and systems translate into redevelopment of neighborhoods. For more information about the Initiative, please contact Director Nicole Heyman.
NeighborWorks® and the Campaign Partner for Foreclosure Workshop in Memphis
In November the Campaign, NeighborWorks® America, and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis convened Building Stable Communities: A Regional Workshop bringing together nonprofit and municipal organizations from Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama to learn about new resources and innovative strategies in the community stabilization effort. Presenters included Sharon Price of the National Housing Conference, Alan Mallach, a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ann Houston of the Massachusetts Foreclosed Properties Task Force. Attendees participated in a series of panel discussions, then broke into small groups to discuss the specifics of their communities' neighborhood stabilization action plans, which were submitted to HUD in December.
Rethinking Vacant Properties Web Archive
If you missed the December web cast, Rethinking Vacant Properties: Vacant Properties as Key Assets, the archive will be available in January on the LISC web site. Speakers - Joe Schilling (the Campaign and Virginia Tech), Heidi Mucherie (Detroit Vacant Property Campaign), Julia Ryan (LISC's Community Safety Initiative), and Julia Seward (LISC) - provided policy updates, presented innovative practices, and offered implementation insights about making vacant property reclamation a part of a sustainable communities initiative.
The Campaign Seeks a Winter/Spring Intern
Do you know a student or recent graduate who is interested in helping create vital communities? The National Vacant Properties Campaign is seeking a motivated, detail-oriented intern with excellent communication and organizational skills to work with us in our DC office. Find out more now.
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News from Around the Country
NeighborWorks® Hosts Timely Forum on Implementing Community Stabilization Plans
In December, just a little over one week after 309 communities submitted Neighborhood Stabilization Program action plans to HUD, NeighborWorks® convenved a forum to help nonprofits and government staff learn how to effectively implement their plans. Putting Your Action Plan to Work: How to Use HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Your Community brought together almost 200 people to hear from each other as well as industry experts about topics including valuation issues, the new National Community Stabilization Trust, how to match strategies to market conditions, and integrating counseling, redevelopment, and demolition.
Many of the presentations from the day are available for download on the stablecommunities.org web site. Also visit housingpolicy.org to see many state and local action plans.
Ohio Senate Passes Land Bank Legislation
The Ohio legislature approved a bill this month that would enable the creation of a land bank in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located. Land bank proponents were disappointed that the legislation did not go further - the bill applies to a single Ohio county rather than statewide and places limits on the land bank's capacity to acquire properties. However, the legislation does represent an important step forward for the County, which has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the country. The County will now have the capacity to buy, demolish, and repair foreclosed and blighted properties, which could then be spun off into development. The proposal currently awaits the governor's signature.
Listen to a discussion with Greater Ohio's Lavea Brachman and other Ohio leaders.
EPA Announces Smart Growth Awards
In November, the EPA Smart Growth Awards recognized four communities for their innovative approaches to development that expand economic opportunity and protect public health and the environment. The awardees were selected based on how effectively they used smart growth strategies to improve their communities and how well they engaged citizens and fostered partnerships. Two of this year's winners focused specifically on brownfields and reusing previously developed land.
The Urban Edge Housing Corporation in Massachusetts won the Built Projects category for Egleston Crossing, a project that helped revitalize a neglected corridor in Boston's Roxbury and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods through the redevelopment of two underused parcels of land - a former garage with a history of toxic waste problems and an abandoned theater. Not only did the project create two new, green, mixed-use buildings housing 64 affordable residential units and locally-owned businesses but it also engaged the residents to make sure the development was community driven.
Mercy Housing California and the San Francisco Housing Authority received the award in the Equitable Development category, by transforming a brownfield site into the Mission Creek Senior Community project, an attractive, mixed-use, fully accessible low-income senior community. The project is sited along the 303-acre Mission Bay area that was formerly used for a sewage pumping station, a section of railroad and interstate highway, and mill operations. In addition building a healthy and environmentally sustainable building, the partners developed a branch of the public library, a community gathering room, and adult day care - all within a block of multiple public transportation choices.
Find out more about all of the winners.
Planners Re-imagine a More Sustainable Cleveland
While many older industrial cities are starting to come to terms with the issues of a decreasing population and more vacant land Cleveland's City Planning Commission has just approved a series of guidelines, grouped into a policy statement titled Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland. Hopes are that these guidelines, which are intended to improve water quality, restore contaminated soils, and improve quality of life in the city, will become the grounding for changes in zoning and land use. The document is the produce of many city agencies, Neighborhood Progress Inc, and the Land Lab of Kent State University's Urban Design collaborative. Learn more.
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Transforming Foreclosed Properties into Community Assets
Earlier this year, the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, with support from the Ford Foundation, convened leading housing researchers, policymakers, lenders, and nonprofit housing organizations to discuss how to best leverage public and private resources to reuse foreclosed properties to stabilize neighborhoods. A new white paper is available that documents the roundtable conversations of the day. The Center has included links to resources - ranging from existing research papers on related topics to listings of REO properties - that will be useful to practitioners, researchers and policymakers involved in neighborhood stabilization projects. Download the information.
From Rust Belt to Artist Belt: Challenges and Opportunities in Rust Belt Cities
This white paper, published by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, details the unique issues faced by the Rust Belt region and offers a plan of attack for capitalizing on its assets, including a discussion of Artist-Based Community Development efforts already underway.
A Tale of Seven Cities
A new book by Adam Smith of the London School of Economics tells the story of how seven European cities survived and restructured themselves after the destruction of manufacturing and 1980s recessions.
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Attend the 8th annual New Partners conference - the premiere national smart growth conference. The three-day schedule includes over 100 sessions including implementation workshops, specialized training, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, coordinated networking activities, and local hands-on tours.
This year, the National Main Streets Conference will focus on the use of innovative technologies and web- based tools for running revitalization organizations and building vibrant commercial districts.
Celebrate the centennial of the planning movement at the American Planning Association's national conference. Earn CM credits, select from hundreds of sessions and workshops, and visit the revitalized riverfront.
Mark your calendars now for 2009's conference, which will feature "beginner" and "advanced" tracks - both packed with great ideas and how-to's.
Links to these and other headlines are online at the National Vacant Properties Campaign's web site:
Big box & beyond
More laws target owners of abandoned homes
Preserving the majesty of old works
There goes the neighborhood
Aggressive tagging of homes helps fix problems, city says
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