Friday, July 22, 2011

Vacant Land Problem Solved

I saw an interesting approach to vacant, overgrown land yesterday on the news. It was even more impressive in that the idea was put forth and then enacted by a local government. As most of us know, one side effect of the housing debacle is foreclosures resulting in vacant houses and vacant lots. More jurisdictions, especially in the north where some cities have declining populations, are taking over severely neglected foreclosed properties.  Well, this jurisdiction, Sandusky, Ohio (home to the absolutely awesome Cedar Point! rollercoasters, anyone?), has ratcheted this up a notch and added a homesteading provision.

It works like this: You own a house next to a vacant, neglected property that has been that way for a while. The city takes the property over due to unpaid taxes, or several other reasons. You notify the city that you will mow the lawn and maintain upkeep on the property. Then you follow through for the next two years. Fast forward two years...The property is now yours! This is a win-win for the city and the residents. Residents in nice neighborhoods often take turns mowing the lawn of a vacant property because they don't like the way it looks nor do they like the negative impact it has on their property values. Of course they complain the whole time. (I've been there. Mowing is a sweaty job and the owners never say thanks!) Now, residents can truly reap the benefits of their goodwill. And the city can put property back in play and begin receiving property tax revenue again much sooner.

Like I say, often the problem provides the solution. Here, there were issues on both sides of the vacant land problem. By looking at both sides, the city created a novel program that addresses both stakeholders' issues by offsetting their problems against the other. Problems can and often are the source for inspiration. I'm interested in hearing yours.

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