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Introduction

 

A TOOLKIT FOR VACANT AND DILAPIDATED PROPERTIES
IN WEST VIRGINIA: INTRODUCTION AND TABLE OF CONTENTS

The West Virginia Community Development Hub is a statewide non-profit organization with the mission of engaging communities and providers in an intentional, aligned and continuous system of community development.

The Hub does this by connecting communities with the Network of resource and technical assistance providers they need to succeed; connecting those resource and technical assistance providers with one another in an effort to align those services to reduce redundancies and identify gaps; and connecting communities with one another to share best practices and reinforce one another's community development efforts.

This Vacant and Dilapidated Building Toolkit is a response to the many local community groups across the state, that have indicated that the ominous presence of vacant, abandoned properties and brown fields hinder their community development efforts.


 

CHAPTER 1: Preventing Vacancy and Dilapidated Buildings

CHAPTER 2: A Vision for the Future

CHAPTER 3: A Community-Based Strategy

CHAPTER 4: Options for Local Government

CHAPTER 5: Opportunities and Strategies for Non-Profit and Quasi-Governmental Agencies 

CHAPTER 6: Building Capacity that is Community-Based


 

It is difficult to give a precise number of the vacant and dilapidated buildings in West Virginia without local surveys. The census data does indicate that the number of vacant residential buildings is rapidly increasing and these buildings if not currently dilapidated have a high potential of becoming so. The “other vacancy” category in the census data refers to residential properties that are not waiting to be rented or sold and are not seasonal properties. In the 1990 census, the “other vacancy” number was 31,150. In 2000, the number had risen to 36,841, an increase of about 5600 units. The American Community Survey (2005-2009) estimates that there are 58,106 units or one house in fourteen in this category, an increase of over 20,000 units.

On the commercial side, one needs only to walk the streets of many small towns in the state to see that many businesses have abandoned downtown areas. Storefronts are vacant as well as the housing units on their upper floors. Some businesses have moved to the edge of town while others have disappeared, having fallen victim to the current state of the economy.

Abandoned and neglected buildings are an eyesore, giving a disincentive for people who might otherwise move their residence or their business nearby. They are a health hazard, a fire hazard and they diminish the value of the surrounding areas. While some worry about the cost of demolition some cities such as Huntington show that for every $1 that is spent on demolition, the increased property values generate $33 in income for the city.

Hope abounds in local community groups willing to take action to improve the quality of their municipal and rural areas so that businesses and residents can have a viable and sustainable place to live and thrive.

For example, in Elkins, WV, a non-profit housing development corporation focused on one city block with numerous substandard houses and vacant lots. After a critical mass of new and rehabilitated houses were complete, the original residents improved their homes, completing the makeover. This revitalization caught the notice of many influential people in the community as it was an access road to their riverfront properties.

This toolkit is a resource for local community groups, government and non-profit groups who want to develop a strategy for vacant or abandoned buildings and are looking for ideas, policies and resources that will help them reach their goals.

Note: When reading this toolkit from cover-to-cover, one will notice some redundancies. For the convenience of the reader, information and activities that pertain to a spectrum of stakeholders are repeated in the section specific to that stakeholder group.

A special “Thank You” to members of the Advisory Board for this toolkit:
Ken Ellison, WV Division of Environmental Protection
Steve Fisher, WV Housing Development Fund
Martin Howe, City of Clarksburg
Karen Jacobson, Randolph County Housing Authority
Patrick Kirby, Brownfields Assistance Center, WVU
Donna Martino, WV Housing Development Fund
Laura Rye, Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh
Marlo Scruggs, BB&T Bank
Sharon Walden, SAFE

In addition, thanks to Judy Guye Swanson, former Mayor of Elkins; Angela Gerald, Fayette County Dilapidated Buildings Project Director; Aletha Stolar, FRN Director and member of the Fayette County Beautification Committee; and Tomoko Tamagawa for designing the tool to calculate the depreciation property values in neighborhoods with vacant and dilapidated buildings.