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Chapter 4: Options for Local Government

Chapter 4: Options for Local Government

1. Prevention Strategies include code enforcement, emergency loan funds, and costly and public citations for properties with vacant buildings. Find more information and resources here.

2. Codes and Ordinances protect citizens, maintain a healthy community, and keep insurance rates low.  Learn more about West Virginia's state code and find sample municipal/county codes and ordinances here.

3. Demolition Program for Vacant and Dilapidated Buildings: This section of the toolkit relies heavily on information from the City of Clarksburg, used with the permission of Mr. Martin Howe, Clarksburg City Manager. Find the full section here.

4. Other Strategies to Acquire Vacant Property:

A. Property Tax Lien Foreclosure
B. Foreclosure for failure to pay municipal taxes, fees or penalties
C. Ordinances to let the city acquire if owner can’t be found and no effort has been made for a period of time to correct errors, etc.

5. Management Challenges:

The following is taken from the International City/County Management Association’s booklet on the Revitalization of vacant properties:

The Management Challenges of Revitalizing Vacant Properties
On many different levels, the revitalization of vacant properties becomes a local government management challenge. Local governments are often in the ideal position to help facilitate the transfer of vacant properties, work closely with community organizations, and exercise code enforcement and abatement powers when appropriate. Successful programs generally require three core management actions:
(1) coordinating internal city departments into multi-disciplinary teams (e.g., city attorney, economic development, planning, housing, police, engineering) that share resources, prepare joint activities, and ensure that staff members understand their roles and relationships;
(2) building strategic partnerships and close relationships with important external stakeholders (e.g., CDCs, nonprofit organizations, state legislators, real estate professionals, developers, lenders); and
(3) designing holistic strategies that integrate the internal city staff and resources with the external players and resources. Holistic strategies must also include programs and policies that address the transitions between the stages of vacant property revitalization (e.g., stabilization, rehabilitation, prevention).

Coming soon: a cost worksheet for holding and managing vacant properties, from Community Legal Resources, Detroit Michigan.

6. Role of Public Sector in Encouraging Real Estate Development:

The public/private partnerships are key to making many development projects work financially. This is true especially as it affects the development of “brown fields”. The Public Sector can decrease and/or quantify the risk. It can do a pilot deal to prove the market. The following is a list of roles that the Public Sector that was distributed at a workshop conducted by the National Development Council for BB&T.

Vision Plan: What type of development do you want in targeted areas?
Market Analysis: What will the market support?
Discounted or Donated Property
Communicate Other Available Incentives: Subordinated Financing, Tax Abatements
Expedited Land Use Approval Process
Leadership: Preferably, leadership should be at an executive level. Public Sector needs to be a full partner in the public-private partnership.
Get Lender to Lend by Reducing Risk
Encourage Developers and Investors to Invest by Increasing Return on Investment to Acceptable Level
Fair Return on Investment but No Undue Enrichment

“But For” Test: But for this favorable financing, discounted property and/or tax abatement, this development would not be financially feasible.


7. Policy Considerations: Find templates and guidelines here.


Good Practices

Fayette County, West Virginia:
While it is somewhat common for municipalities to have ordinances that deal with nuisance properties, Fayette County is among the few counties that are taking on this challenge. The Fayette County Commission was alerted of the citizen concern about vacant and dilapidated structures during a series of public meetings held on the Comprehensive Plan. This issue came up at virtually every meeting and so the Commission was compelled to establish a committee called the Dilapidated Building and Beautification Committee. With the aid of a Vista worker, this group conducted a survey and collected data on all the vacant and abandoned properties in the county. They proposed a Dilapidated Building and Beautification Ordinance that was adapted by the County Commission. With the help of funding from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund, the Vista worker became the Dilapidated Building Project Director who enforces the ordinance. The County has adopted a “911 Mapping” software program that allows information sharing on these properties with the appropriate county offices.

Leveraging Code Enforcement Dollars (from Restoring Properties, Rebuilding Communities by Leonard and Mallach):
“The City of Cleveland has initiated an innovative program that makes the city’s community development corporations its code enforcement partners to leverage limited municipal resources.”