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Chapter 3: A Community-Based Strategy

Chapter 3: A Community-Based Strategy

Leadership is key in developing a community based strategy. It is important that the leader be inclusive of representatives of the public, private and non-profit sectors in order to be successful. The initial leadership can come from any sector but the broader the support, the better the chance for success.

Any development project and re-development project takes time and requires both patience and persistence as well as the creativity to see multiple ways to reach the goal of a safe and sustainable community.

An excellent publication, “Solving Chronic Nuisance Problems: A Guide for Community Leaders” published by Enterprise, points out steps to keep in mind if you are called to leadership in your community:

Basic Preparation Steps:
1. Assume responsibility.
2. Define the problem and focus the mission.
3. Recognize the difference between legal violations and emotional impacts.
4. Plan to lead others, not act alone.
5. Build inclusive coalitions.
6. Consider personal safety with each action
Leadership training opportunities for community and organizational leaders are discussed in Chapter 6.

(Based on Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference Overview PowerPoint by Marlo Scruggs, BB&T)

1. Educate homebuyers and homeowners about mortgage, property tax and foreclosure processes to keep homeowners in their homes and avoid additional vacancies. Inform neighbors of opportunities for grants and low interest loans for home repairs to keep their homes from deteriorating.

2. Develop an inventory and assessment of vacant and dilapidated homes and businesses. Monitor changes quarterly.

3. Determine property ownership in order to hold owners accountable for the condition of their property.

4. Prevent damage to vacant properties to retain home values.

5. Obtain control of vacant properties so that repairs can be made and they can be marketed.

6. Get vacant properties re-occupied.

7. Demolish unsalvageable vacant properties.

8. Manage vacant lots.

9. Build neighborhood capacity.

10. Retain residents.


Templates and Resources for a Community-Based Strategy

1. Citizen Action, Step by Step: Citizens have the power to address problems with vacant and dilapidated buildings, through a wide range of strategies.  Find a guide for citizen action here.

2. Policy Considerations:

- Optimally, every municipality and county needs to adopt the state building code. Passing a Nuisance Ordinance can be an effective alternative.
- Adopt ordinances that will let affected neighbors have access to a property for the purpose of abatement. A Baltimore ordinance is summarized as follows:

LAW - Self Help Nuisance Abatement:
A common law nuisance abatement used to secure vacant properties and lots
Plaintiff: Neighboring property owner or community association
Defendant: Property Owner
Requirements: Plaintiff's property must be adversely affected by the nuisance. Reasonable notice - at least two weeks - must be given to owner by regular and certified mail.

If the owner does not abate, the affected person may abate without further damage to property. Records and receipts must be kept.


Good Practices

Best Practice Tip from: “Solving Chronic Nuisance Problems “ by John Campbell for The Enterprise Foundation, available at

Basic Neighborhood Involvement:
Neighbors must be motivated, at minimum, to do the following:

• Document: Keep activity logs about the property, including behavioral disturbances and property maintenance concerns. Each neighbor should encourage other neighbors to do the same. Such documentation is valuable for establishing proof should police, landlords, or courts need supporting information.

• Report: Whether it is calling building inspectors, housing managers, or police, neighbors must know the people to call and the importance of doing so. Neighbors should never assume that someone has already called — if they are not positive a credible call has been made, they should do it. Some don’t call because they believe it won’t help. Others fear getting involved. Still others are too shy or too polite — they don’t want to inconvenience police or other public servants. Encourage all of them to call anyway. Also, remind neighbors that calls about the same issue from different people can help. Do not ask neighbors to call and repeat another person’s report. Do ask them to assess the problem independently and, if they also consider it a problem, to report it as well.

Foreclosure/Vacant Building Maps:
Present these to legislators who need to know the extent and concentration of the problem so that they can enact helpful policies.