As we all know, one of the main factors that led to the Great Recession was the housing crisis that affected communities throughout the nation. An incredible number of houses went into foreclosure, and many of them were left abandoned for long stretches of time with no maintenance or upkeep. Even as parts of the country continue to recover from the recession, numerous neighborhoods remain in distress, hampered by large numbers of homes in disrepair. To address this issue, housing groups in the metro Atlanta area are attempting to purchase and renovate 7,500 homes to help hard hit neighborhoods. The Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and Resources for Residents and Communities are focusing on new revitalization efforts to build communities up along with neighborhood associations to fix what has happened in neighborhoods the past couple of years.
As someone who has been renovating a home in a transitional neighborhood in Atlanta for nearly the past two years, this concept immediately appealed to me. I then thought of other areas that were hit harder like Florida, Nevada, and Michigan, where headlines about property values seemed more like bad jokes than real news. In these areas, different solutions are being deployed. Michigan recently kicked off a $100 million anti-blight effort to demolish abandoned homes to give the neighborhoods more of an appealing quality. Some 7,000 homes in five cities will be demolished as a part of this effort. When I read this news, my inner-preservationist said, “Instead of spending federal grant money to tear things down, where are all the flippers and developers?”
But I quickly came back to reality. I live in a city that seems to have an abundance of developers, flippers, and “regular Joes” that want to invest in the area. But for places with limited future potential and market demand, what can be done? Is it simply up to the remaining residents to maintain their own properties? If outsiders swoop in and purchase a really cheap house and fix it up will that encourage more businesses and people to come? Certainly, in many of these distressed areas, the problems go much deeper than empty houses to include things like pervasive poverty, failing schools, and ineffective leadership. In these cases, demolishing structures that are too far gone to save economically may be the only realistic first step on the road to revitalization.
Even in states such as Michigan, California, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona, forecasts seem to indicate that housing market stability will increase in the future. But though there’s talk of stability and growth, there are still many houses that are going into disrepair because they stand empty. Communities all across the country are best-served by facing these issues head on, regardless of which solution works best for their specific situation.