Tag: Vacant Properties

Smart growth news – October 3, 2012

Is urban sprawl to blame for cities going bankrupt?
KPCC’s AirTalk (CA) – October 2, 2012
Former Ventura mayor William Fulton says that large public pensions aren’t solely to blame for California city bankruptcies. Urban sprawl poses additional problems.

America’s Great Streets Named By American Planning Association
Huffinton Post – October 3, 2012
As part of the Great Places in America program, the American Planning Association has compiled a list of America’s 10 Great Streets for 2012.

The New SimCity Will Turn You Into An Urban Planning Nut
Co.Exist – October 3, 2012
The newest version of the classic city building game is introducing complex models about things like energy, health care, and transportation. But you can also still destroy your city with an asteroid.

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The difficult business of building on old gas stations

Across the country abandoned gas stations represent one of the trickiest problems facing small towns and big cities alike. In particular, old gas stations pose a threat to the land when their underground storage tanks begin to deteriorate, potentially leaking petroleum into the groundwater.

A recent New York Times article covered the ways in which the hamlet of High Falls, NY has sought to address the negative community impact of its abandoned gas stations. Investors have begun to clean up and redevelop these lots, and their efforts have turned unattractive, contaminated brownfields into office space, restaurants and small shops. These innovative projects are creating new ways to bring money into the local economy and are helping revitalize the community.

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Fighting blight in Pennsylvania: State House of Representatives passes land bank bill

In Pennsylvania today, more than 300,000 properties stand vacant. These properties cost municipalities millions of dollars each year in maintenance costs and even more in lost revenue. In Philadelphia alone – which has some 40,000 vacant properties – the City pays $20 million each year just to maintain those properties.

Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took a major step toward turning the state’s vacant properties back into homes and businesses. On Wednesday the House passed HB 1682, a bill that would allow counties and municipalities in Pennsylvania to create land banks. Land banks are entities that can hold and manage vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, making it faster, easier and cheaper for prospective new owners to purchase these properties and get them back into productive re-use.

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Smart growth news – January 3, 2012

The bold urban future starts now
Salon, December 31, 2011
In cities in every region of the country, pie-in-the-sky ideas are moving from brainstorm to blueprint to groundbreaking — and 2012 will prove it.

Oklahoma City reaps positive effects of economic development
The Oklahoman, January 1, 2011
“Downtown Oklahoma City experienced significant changes this year (2011), but probably the most impactful was the renovation and grand reopening of the Myriad Gardens,” Jenkins said. “Construction of the Level Apartments and Aloft Hotel in Deep Deuce have really given that area a dense, urban feel, and the launch of the ‘Downtown It!’ advertising campaign increase awareness of all that downtown Oklahoma City has to offer.”

Study: Cities subsidize townships
Oxford Press (Ohio), January 2, 2012
There is an inequity in government subsidies for roads, police protection and other services that township residents receive compared with city residents, though both groups pay the same taxes, a University of Toledo study shows.

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Smart growth news – December 19

New Study: Millennials Prefer Car “Access Over Ownership”
The City Fix, December 16, 2011
The “Millennial” generation is quickly adopting car sharing as a mainstream transportation solution, according to results from Zipcar’s second annual study of the personal transportation and car ownership behavior of 18- to 34-year-olds. The study found that 55 percent of this influential generation have made an effort to drive less, which is a 10 percent rise from 2010.

GAO report details local cost of vacant properties
American City & County, December 15, 2011
In 10 years, vacant properties in the U.S. have increased almost 50 percent, and local governments have spent millions of dollars maintaining them. A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looks at how much those properties are costing local governments, and how cities and counties are responding to the issue.

Report: Big roads projects, big cities, big impact
Omaha World-Herald (Neb.), December 17, 2011
Building new roads doesn’t always boost economic development, a new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln concludes, but large projects in larger communities have helped increase wages.

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Smart growth news – December 14

Report: Housing shift seen as suburban spreads lose appeal
The Sacramento Bee, December 13, 2011
Is Sacramento’s long-standing love of suburban living winding down? A blunt new analysis says yes, but some local builders say no way. The report released this week by the Urban Land Institute contends that Sacramento and other California metropolitan areas are about to discover they have an “oversupply” of classic subdivision housing, thanks to a sea change in what buyers want and can afford.

Is the Housing Bust About to Slam City Budgets?
Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2011
City budget crises could be getting worse in the coming years as the housing bust shakes out by shrinking property tax revenues, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Lawmaker’s high-speed rail plan: Will it fly?
CNN, December 13, 2011
How fast can high-speed trains come to the Northeast corridor? Not fast enough for Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee recently came out with a proposal to create a high-speed rail line – trains that can travel more than 200 mph – between Boston and D.C. in 10 to 15 years. Can it be done in half the time Amtrak said it would take?

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Smart growth news – December 9

As U.S. road deaths drop, more pedestrians getting struck
USA Today, December 8, 2011
The USA is getting riskier for people on foot, and experts aren’t sure why. New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that pedestrian fatalities rose 4.2% in 2010 over the previous year. The number of pedestrians injured in motor vehicle crashes soared 19%, to 70,000.

Smart Growth conference to focus on sustainability
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 9, 2011
Pittsburgh’s rise from the ashes of a decimated steel industry and collapsed job market has caused some planning experts to refer to its story as a road map for post-industrial recovery. But organizers of the upcoming Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference say sustainable business strategies designed to revitalize existing resources are the models that ultimately will determine the future of the region and nation.

Governor Cuomo Announces $785 Million in Economic Development Funding Through Regional Councils
NBC 34 (N.Y.), December 9, 2011
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $785 million has been awarded through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, continuing the Governor’s efforts to redesign the way state government works in order to drive economic growth and create jobs. … In its plan, “A Strategy for Prosperity in Western New York,” the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council focused on preparing the region’s workforce for employment in key industry sectors, driving innovation and commercialization, investing in smart growth infrastructure, and attracting more visitors.

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The high cost of vacant homes: a new report from GAO

In 2010, there were 10.3 million vacant homes in America. Many are vacant as a result of foreclosure, and they’re costing municipalities at a time when public budgets are already strained to the breaking point.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examines trends in the number of vacant properties, how they relate to the recent increase in foreclosures, the cost of maintaining and administering these properties and strategies for coping with the crises. GAO analyzed Census Bureau vacancy data and data on property maintenance costs from the Federal Housing Administration and two housing-related government-sponsored enterprises. The Office conducted case studies in nine cities selected to provide a range of local economic and housing conditions, rates of foreclosure, and geographic locations.

For many cities, vacant and foreclosed properties are more than just another costly expense. Tending to these properties costs money, but neglecting them can cost far more, and the report from GAO makes clear the scope of this problem. The Huffington Post explained the dilemma vacant properties pose:

While the upkeep and maintenance of a vacant home is technically the responsibility of either the homeowner or the mortgage owner, in practice it often falls to the town, which has to pay for basic services – like cutting the grass, boarding up windows and draining swimming pools – to keep the property from falling into total disrepair. Alternatively, the town can have the vacant property demolished [but] either way, the tab for cities and towns is often high. Detroit, for example, has paid $20 million to demolish 4,000 properties in the past two and a half years, the GAO found.

Communities incur costs in other ways as well. The GAO noted that vacant homes are often associated with crime and accidental fires, which require the attention of police and fire departments, thus tying up city resources. And cities often see their property taxes fall as vacant homes drive down the value of homes around them.

While vacant properties pose serious challenges to the communities faced with them, cities and states are already using great strategies to turn these properties into assets. Land banks are public authorities created to acquire, hold, manage and develop vacant properties. Land banks aim to convert vacant properties that have been neglected by the open market into productive use, and are already in use in Ohio and New York. Land banks are a great way for municipalities to deal with the high cost of vacant homes and support their local economy in the process.

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Smart growth news – December 8

Economy, gas prices make Americans drive less
USA Today, December 7, 2011
It’s the first time the nation has seen six consecutive monthly decreases since October of 2008. A USA TODAY analysis of data from the Federal Highway Administration shows the miles driven during the year that ended in September were down 1% from a similar measure from February.

Public mass transit regains footing
USA Today, December 7, 2011
More people rode public transportation in the first nine months of this year than last, a sign that more people are working and looking for cheaper options to get around. Ridership on public buses and trains increased 2% — from 7.63 billion rides to 7.76 billion, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Vacant Homes Impose Big Costs On Cities Amid Budget Crises: GAO
Huffington Post, December 6, 2011
The foreclosure crisis is costing cities at a time when they can least afford it. Millions of homes in America are standing vacant, and in many cases they represent a financial sinkhole for their communities. Local governments — forced to absorb the costs of maintaining or razing these homes, and seeing property taxes plummet in response to the spread of urban blight — are increasingly shouldering the burden of the country’s slumping housing market, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

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Smart growth news – December 5

Ventura mayor plans to move to D.C. after leaving office
Ventura County Star (Calif.), December 2, 2011
Bill Fulton, whose term as mayor of Ventura ends Monday, will leave town in the spring for a job with an urban planning think tank in Washington, D.C.

A new challenge for this politician
Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2011
Fulton announced in July he wouldn’t seek reelection when his term was up this year. In a few months he will move to Washington, D.C., where he’ll work for Smart Growth America, a think tank that advises cities and counties on development issues.

‘Smart growth’ advocates study Williamson’s efforts
The Tennessean, November 30, 2011
Quality-growth experts from throughout the country visited Williamson County as part of a three-day visit to Nashville to learn about successful quality-growth models and best practices in Middle Tennessee…A model region is selected every year by the Smart Growth America network as part of its convention. Smart Growth America is a national organization that works with communities to implement smart growth planning and development.

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