Breathing Lights

vacancy-by-hope-edwards-smBlighted and vacant properties are a persistent and costly problem throughout the United States, taking a heavy toll on economic growth by taxing government and community resources. Communities dealing with these properties must work to not only maintain them, but also to respond to increased public safety calls, all of which requires dedicated manpower. In addition, these properties no longer generate revenue from taxes and utilities, which can prompt a decline in surrounding property values. Urban blight is caused by a wide range of factors in a city and what starts out small can quickly become a heavy burden that communities try tirelessly to mitigate and prevent.

Interestingly enough, in addition to securing adequate resources for remediation, much of the beginning steps in fighting blight lies in getting access to the most up-to-date, high quality, and detailed data about the properties. Code enforcement and urban development is the cornerstone of identifying the beginning signs of property decline and these programs rely on the collection, sharing, and use of information.  While city governments have data collected on each property, that data may not be up to date because of processes occurring outside of their control. Similarly, data about those properties lie within the purview of national financial institutions, which are historically closed and unwilling to share.  Subsequently, even when communities want to take action on blighted and vacant properties, their efforts are thwarted by the inability to gain access to critical and complete data on those properties.

For those communities that have found success, they understand that addressing blight and vacancy requires a holistic approach where coordination and collaboration is key. Gathering critical data, developing a widely vetted action plan, and securing funding is often done in partnership with many public, private, and nonprofit organizations within the region.  They have learned that blight and vacancy is a community issue, warranting the attention of many.

The following articles present more information about the causes and strategies to address blight and vacancy:

  • The Basics of Blight, by Joseph Schilling and Jimena Pinzon
  • Restoring Properties, Rebuilding Communities, by Jennifer R. Leonard and Allan Mallach
  • Long-term Stress and Systemic Failure, by Allan Mallach and Eric Scorsone

This information is provided by the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany (CTG). CTG is an applied research center, world-renowned for working with government at all levels to improve public service through innovations in technology, policy, and management. They are currently working with four local cities to address the code enforcement information needs throughout New York’s Capital Region in order to target urban blight.