American Jobs Act would revitalize vacant properties with Project Rebuild

ForeclosureSmart Growth America supports President Obama’s call for federal investments that will create jobs, modernize America’s transportation infrastructure and support the country’s economy as part of the American Jobs Act. In particular, Smart Growth America supports Project Rebuild: Putting People Back to Work Rehabilitating Homes, Businesses and Communities, which has been allocated $15 billion under the proposed bill. From the White House’s description of the program:

The bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession that followed has left communities across the country with large numbers of foreclosed homes and businesses, which is weighing down property values, increasing blight and crime, and standing in the way of economic recovery. In these same communities there are also large numbers of people looking for work, especially in the construction industry, where more than 1.9 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The President is proposing Project Rebuild to help address both of these problems by connecting Americans looking for work in distressed communities with the work needed to repair and repurpose residential and commercial properties. Building on successful models piloted through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), Project Rebuild will invest $15 billion in proven strategies that leverage private capital and expertise to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of properties in communities across the country. Key components include:

Focus on Distressed Commercial Properties and Redevelopment to Stabilize Communities
Many regions with concentrated home foreclosures also haveconcentrations of vacant commercial structures that weigh on property values and make it less likely that new businesses will come into the community and invest new capital. Project Rebuild will tackle this problem directly by allowing grantees to rebuild and repurpose distressed commercial real estate.

Include For-Profit Entities to Gain Expertise, Leverage Federal Dollars and Speed Program Implementation
Many successful redevelopment strategies involve unique collaborations between local governments, non-profit organizations and developers and other private actors. Project Rebuild will seek to empower and expand these types of collaborations by allowing federal funding to support for-profit development when consistent with project aims and subject to strict oversight requirements to ensure that the funds are being used as intended.

Increase Support for “Land Banking”
Land banks work with communities to buy, hold and redevelop distressed properties as part of a long-term redevelopment strategy and have shown impressive results in stemming property price declines and stabilizing communities across the country. Project Rebuild will seek to scale successful land bank models, providing much needed infusions of capital that they can leverage to raise private sector investment. This will increase the breadth and depth of their reach in helping communities better handle their distressed properties.

Create Jobs Maintaining Properties and Avoiding Community Blight
Project Rebuild will enable grantees to use funds to establish property maintenance programs to create jobs and mitigate “visible scars” left by vacant/abandoned properties.

Lank banking has been used by several communities around the country, including recently in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and in statewide legislation in New York. It’s difficult for a city to recover when, on top of unemployment, homes are boarded up or downtown is empty. This is exactly what smart growth helps communities overcome, and it’s great to see some of these strategies included in the American Jobs Act.

Photo by Flickr user respres.

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    One Response to American Jobs Act would revitalize vacant properties with Project Rebuild

    1. Ernest Harr says:

      I am an unemployed construction manager and former business owner. I reside in Southwestern Va.. This area has been under economic stress since the early 1990’s. We have all the problems mentioned in the article I just read here. It pains me to see distressed properties;they are to me what stray dogs and cats are to animal lovers.
      I have purchased homes to remodel and resell when I had my construction company, but didn’t have the time to do so while employed as a manger for other companies. I have extensive knowledge in home/commercial building renovation and new construction.

      It is very frustrating to see so many homes left empty and in need of repair. People who would like to buy could do so at the low prices, but most foreclosed properties are damaged just before the foreclosure or are in dire need of updates to be a marketable property. I have been asked many times by local realtors to make an assessment of homes in order to give potential buyers an idea of the costs to make the home one they would want and fit their needs. Unfortunately they rarely follow through for one reason or another.

      There is little activity to accomplish what needs to be done here. A few people, as small groups, have begun to buy some properties to remodel. But as I see it, they lack the knowledge on how to do it right only compounding the problem. We do have some new businesses coming in but not enough to compensate for all the . lost textile and manufacturing jobs that left here in the 90s.

      I would like more information on “Project Rebuild”, in order that I may help my community become revitalized, by doing the measures laid out in “Project Rebuild”. This would get me back to work and many others that I know in my same predicament.

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