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Urban blight is often associated with decay, crime and instability. Blighted property is described by the Washington Post as “a contagious affliction.” Vacancy and subsequent blight begins to spread by depreciating adjacent property values, which discourages local residents from investing in home improvements and decreases the likelihood of banks to administer loans. The “affliction” reaches a certain threshold where it deters prospective investors and homebuyers, thus perpetuating the core problem. In 2001, a Philadelphia study found that houses within 150 feet of a vacant or abandoned property experienced a net loss of $7,627 in value. Properties within 150 to 300 feet experienced a loss of $6,819 and those within 300 to 450 feet experienced a loss of $3,542.
Strictly financially speaking, there is a massive incentive for reinvesting in blighted communities. A University of Minnesota study quantified the demolition of a vacant building and leaving a vacant lot instead led to “$26,397 in lost of property tax revenue over a twenty year period. This compounded over many vacant properties can lead to serious financial strain on small governments. According to an article in the Pittsburgh Quarterly, a 2010 study of Philadelphia reports, vacant properties cost $20 million in city services a year, almost half of which is spent on code enforcement and maintenance. Not only are vacant properties costly, the loss of millions of tax dollars furthers the financial burden.
All things considered, it can be much cheaper for groups or government agencies to reinvest in improving blighted infrastructure than to let the properties remain vacant. A reference to the St. Paul, Minnesota budget for the costs associated with vacant properties revealed that while demolition saves $4,697 the rehabilitation of a vacant building saves an estimated $7,141 in maintenance costs over a twenty-year period.
Though the blight conditions may seem bleak, there are widespread efforts across the nation, including Allegheny County, which inspires hope for such communities. Many cities are receiving millions dollars in grant relief specifically to help mitigate the financial burden that blight brings to local and state municipalities. Blight focused programs, groups, and nonprofits are working harder than ever to ensure the future of underserved communities by providing new and innovative solutions for everyday citizens to help reclaim their communities.
There is lots to love in the grater Pittsburgh region. Learn how you can play a part in ReClaiming your community.
Blight Bootcamp: November 7th 8:00 AM – 3:30 PM
Learn about resources and best practices to increase the impact of community led blight elimination efforts.
100 Resilient Cities: Pittsburgh
Learn how Pittsburgh has become one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities.