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Chapter 1: Preventing Vacancy and Dilapidated Buildings

Chapter 1: Preventing Vacancy and Dilapidated Buildings

The easiest way to avoid the problem of vacant and dilapidated properties is to prevent them from happening in the first place. This is an area where community groups, local government and non-profit organizations can take a pro-active approach to this problem. Even as you try to address the problem properties, “at-risk” properties may be slipping through your fingers. It is best to stem the flow of problem properties by partnering prevention strategies with remediation. A simple way to begin a prevention strategy is to let owners/renters know of some of the programs that might help them keep their homes or businesses by distributing a directory of services or by hosting a community meeting.

1. Develop a local directory of community services.  Deliver it to each residence and include it in a Welcome Wagon packet for new residents.  Find a template for a directory here.

2. Be mindful of problems neighbors may have and direct them toward community resources that could help them solve their problem of code violations or impending foreclosure.  Find a sample friendly letter to a neighbor here.

3. Resources for Home Owners: Sustaining homeownership starts with a good housing counseling agency that prepares people for the responsibility of homeownership in the first place. Unexpected events can cause families and the elderly to put their homes on the market and move out before they are sold. Foreclosure Prevention Programs and Reverse Mortgage Programs can help these families stay in their homes or at least maximize the time they can live in their homes before moving out. Learn more and find resources for home owners here.

4.  Resources for Owners of Multi-Family/Rental Properties: Multi-family/rental properties present special challenges for maintaining buildings. Find resources for owners of multi-family/rental properties here.

5. Other Prevention Strategies: Strong community outreach efforts, especially ones that build a culture of pride and caretaking, can also prevent properties from falling into disrepair.  Learn more about a variety of other preventation strategies here.


Good Practices (collected by Alan Mallach of the National Housing Institute, in Bringing Buildings Back)

- The Housing Bureau for Seniors in Washtenaw County, Michigan, runs a property tax foreclosure prevention program, offering counseling, intervention with government agencies, loans and grants to help elderly homeowners avoid losing their homes.

- Nuestra Communidad Development Corporation in Boston has initiated a Senior Abandonment Prevention Program through which the organization repairs vacant rental units in owner-occupied multifamily properties to make them rentable, while providing assistance to the owners in property management and foreclosure prevention. They have worked on forty properties so far using funds from private lenders, CDFI, the city and the Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program.