Neal Etre

Neal Etre

These results of this study serve to highlight the patchiness of municipal government data regarding vacant lots and abandoned structures

2001 Urban Fellow

Research Topic: Land Use Planning and Management

Faculty Advisor: Bradford Gentry

Finding Room to Grow: Tracking Vacant Properties in America's Cities

Vacant lands and abandoned structures represent opportunities for redevelopment and recovery in many of our city neighborhoods. The reuse of urban vacant land can bring higher densities to the urban core, while helping to curb urban sprawl by reducing the demand for development in suburban greenfields. Information regarding abandoned properties is crucial for effective planning for redevelopment. Unfortunately, information regarding quantities and locations of these properties in U.S. cities is patchy and inconsistent from city to city. After a brief history of vacant land, this paper focuses on a survey sent out to 239 U.S. cities (102 responded) in an effort to understand the extent to which cities track vacant land and abandoned structures. For cities that do track vacant lands and abandoned structures, questions explored methodology, technology, costs, time commitments, use of information and the resources needed to improve tracking. For cities that do not track this information, questions probed the barriers to tracking, technological capabilities, resources and funding. The vacant property inventory gives cities the ability to locate specific sites for potential infill development; develop citywide abatement strategies; dispose of vacant land through land banks and other public procedures; and prevent decay through code enforcement. Approximately one half all responding cities do not formally track vacant land, while just over two-thirds of responding cities do not track abandoned structures. The major barrier to conducting inventories appears to be the costs of staffing and technology. A national inventoryfunding program could assist cities with overcoming these cost barriers.