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Local Government Vacant Property Management: Combating Blight and Driving Economic Development

By John William Morales

Vacant property management is pivotal in combating blight and driving economic development. If left unattended, abandoned properties can become breeding grounds for crime and urban decay, negatively impacting communities. 

However, proactive management and revitalization of these properties from the local government can prevent blight from spreading and enhance the overall quality of neighborhoods.

The positive transformation of these neglected spaces can initiate a ripple effect, revitalizing surrounding areas and establishing a virtuous circle of development. In essence, municipal vacant property management is a powerful tool for building thriving, vibrant communities while fostering a sense of hope and progress for their residents.

The fight against blight is far from over. Fortunately, you can help lessen and eliminate blight from your communities. Let’s delve into urban blight and the steps you can take to help combat it.

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What is Urban Blight?

Urban blight refers to the deterioration and decay of urban areas characterized by abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and declining infrastructure. 

Why is Blight an Issue Local Governments Need to Address?

It poses significant problems for local governments, including decreased property values, reduced tax revenues, and increased crime rates due to the potential for illegal activities in neglected spaces. It also leads to declining community pride, quality of life, and challenges in attracting businesses and investment. 

Addressing urban blight requires substantial resources for revitalization efforts and collaboration between government agencies, residents, and private stakeholders to create sustainable solutions and restore the vibrancy of affected areas.

What Is a Government Vacant Property Strategy?

A government vacant property strategy is a crucial approach to tackling the pervasive issue of urban blight. It involves a comprehensive plan to address abandoned and vacant properties, which can lead to numerous problems for local governments.

Here are key components of a vacant property management plan for municipal and county governments:

Tracking Vacancies

Tracking vacancies is essential. How many abandoned / vacant properties are in your neighborhood? This process involves identifying and documenting vacant properties within a city or town. Accurate data on the extent of the problem enables governments to develop targeted solutions and allocate resources effectively.

Plans for Repurposing Decaying Spaces

Considering opportunities to repurpose vacant properties is vital. Repurposing can involve converting abandoned buildings into community centers, affordable housing units, or public green spaces. Governments can revitalize neighborhoods and enhance their appeal by breathing new life into these spaces.

Public Policy

Finally, policy passage is a critical step in a vacant property strategy. Governments need to implement regulations and incentives to encourage property owners to maintain and utilize their holdings responsibly. 

The government's vacant property strategy is a proactive approach that will mitigate the problems associated with blight and foster vibrant, thriving communities that attract residents, businesses, and investment.

How to Forge a Vacant Property Management Strategy

While the government is allocating resources to fight blight, your help could solve the problem much sooner. If you want your community to thrive, here are a few steps you can take to combat urban blight.

Use Advanced Vacant Property Management Software to Keep Track of Vacancies 

Using government software is a forward and innovative way to combat blight and effectively manage vacant properties in both the housing department and economic development department. This software has hundreds of modules as solutions for every local government department, but for blight, two are essential—Vacant Property Registration and the GIS Map.

Register Vacant Properties Online

Owners can be fined up to six figures when they do not register their vacant properties. Using GovPilot, owners can easily register their vacant properties via your local government website by searching for their addresses. The Property Owner Information portion will automatically update. 

Fully Completed Applications, Every Time

The fields highlighted in yellow are required to be filled to prevent oversight. Owners must also provide comprehensive information about the property, bank information, agent or representative details, the maintenance company, and utility information. All of these pieces of information must be included in order to successfully upload the application, ensuring the registration form is 100% completed every time.

Digital Documentation Uploads

Moreover, necessary additional documents can be uploaded directly through the platform. The system calculates the registration fee, and the owner can finalize the process by typing their name or providing an electronic signature. 

Application Tracking

The platform generates a confirmation page, sends an email, and assigns a reference number for easy tracking. The registration request is then forwarded to a designated government employee, ensuring that vacant properties are accounted for and managed appropriately.

Revenue Generation from Application Fees

Digitizing vacant property registration (and other key applications like construction permits, pet licenses, etc.) allows your local government to drive revenue by collecting fees with every application. 

GovPilot integrates with the best government credit card processors for the cyber secure collection of municipal fees straight from your government website to boost your government’s budget

Learn how Rutland, VT made $40,000 in previously unrealized revenue by digitizing fee collection with GovPilot. 

Track Vacant Properties on a Local, 3D Map

The GIS Map, another critical feature of GovPilot, empowers the government to address vacant properties comprehensively. It provides detailed information about selected areas, giving government officials a comprehensive overview of properties, including home ownership, tax assessments, and year built. 

Government Data Analytics

This data allows for informed decision-making regarding property management and potential revitalization efforts. Moreover, the GIS Map enables the government to pin specific vacant properties, visually representing the extent of urban blight in the area. Historical property records can also be easily pulled up through the GIS Map, aiding in identifying long-standing issues and trends.

Better Government Communications

Additionally, the GIS Map facilitates efficient communication with property owners and residents. Governments can run a mail merge to send letters or notifications to affected parties, ensuring they are informed about ongoing initiatives and potential developments. 

Furthermore, the application allows the government to coordinate repurposing efforts or conduct necessary repairs by temporarily shutting down streets, streamlining the process, and minimizing disruptions.

Forge a Government Strategic Plan

A well-crafted government strategic plan is also a necessary step to eliminating blight. This plan should encompass crucial aspects to tackle the issue comprehensively. Here’s what to include in your planning:

Highlight the Problem

Firstly, the strategic plan must highlight the magnitude of the problem of vacancies within the area. Accurate data on vacant properties is vital to understand the extent of urban blight and formulate targeted solutions.

Pinpoint Specific Vacant Properties & Neighborhoods with Blight

Secondly, identifying the specific locations where vacancies are occurring is crucial. Pinpointing the affected areas allows the government to prioritize and allocate resources efficiently.

Cost of Urban Blight in Your Community

Thirdly, the plan should thoroughly assess the cost of urban blight. This involves evaluating the economic impact of vacant properties on the local community, including decreased property values and tax revenues.

Also consider the opportunity cost of leaving these properties as is. Repurposing these areas can drive local economic development in your municipality.

Decide What Laws Your Community Needs to Address Vacant Properties

Moreover, developing strategies to pass policies and implement change is paramount. The plan should outline steps to introduce regulations and incentives that encourage property owners to maintain their holdings responsibly and participate in revitalization efforts.

Repurpose Abandoned Buildings

Furthermore, exploring ways to repurpose abandoned buildings for better usage and economic development is essential. Converting vacant spaces into community centers, affordable housing, or commercial establishments can breathe new life into blighted areas and spur growth.

Segment Neighborhoods

Lastly, conducting neighborhood segmentation to determine the demographics most affected by blight is crucial for targeted assistance and support. Understanding the specific needs of different communities allows the government to tailor solutions accordingly.

Encourage community members to attend public meetings to get their take on the impact of blight and how’d they like to repurpose the spaces.

Pass Policies That Address Blight

Policies to address blight are a must because urban decay and vacant properties have far-reaching negative consequences on communities. These policies must be topic-specific, comprehensive, and targeted to combat the problem effectively. Ordinances and laws that tackle issues related to vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties must be drafted. 

Additionally, policies must be designed with the community's specific needs in mind, as a one-size-fits-all approach may not be practical. Strategic planning is crucial for optimal resource allocation, ensuring that limited resources are utilized efficiently to achieve maximum impact.

When adopting such policies, local governments can create a conducive environment for economic growth, attract investment, and enhance the quality of life for residents.

Using Construction Software

Construction software for governments offers digital tools that streamline construction workflows and efficiently address vacant properties. It provides various benefits, including quicker permitting approvals and government inspection processes for demolition, cranes, and construction projects. 

Digital Permitting for Faster Construction Projects

Local governments can expedite permit approvals by automating the process, enabling faster redevelopment and revitalization efforts.

Learn more about How Permitting Software Works.

Digital Public Record Storage

Moreover, these government cloud systems facilitate the automated storage of all vacant property-related records (and all of your government’s public records!) Centralized servers ensure easy access to crucial information, enabling government officials to make informed decisions and track progress promptly.

Explore this resource on the Best Public Records Technology & Its Features. 

Better Inspection Workflows

Digital inspection forms are another valuable feature of construction software, allowing for faster building inspections. Inspectors can easily access and complete forms electronically, reducing paperwork and administrative delays and accelerating the inspection process.

Digital Contractor Registration

Additionally, implementing digital contractor registration systems helps keep track of contractors working on vacant properties. This ensures that only licensed and qualified professionals are engaged in revitalization projects, promoting safety and adherence to building codes.

Prioritize Local Development

Prioritizing local economic development is perfect for reversing the adverse effects of blight. One practical approach is to consider transforming vacant, abandoned properties into various assets that promote economic activity and address local needs.

Repurposing such properties into housing can rejuvenate neighborhoods and attract new residents, creating demand for local goods and services. Affordable housing initiatives can address housing shortages, benefitting residents and the local economy.

Converting abandoned spaces into commercial areas allows businesses to thrive, generating job opportunities and increasing tax revenues for the government.

Repurposing properties into public spaces, such as parks and community centers, also boosts recreational and social activities, contributing to the community's overall well-being.

Another option is to list vacant properties in the government’s possession for real estate auctions. Trenton, New Jersey, experienced remarkable success when auctioning residential, commercial, and municipal properties brought life back to neighborhoods and created income. 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, GovPilot conducted a highly successful online auction with Trenton, NJ that sold 49 properties in just one day, generating an impressive revenue of $4.15 million. The purchasers needed to commit to 5+ years of living in the spaces or opening businesses to ensure the acquisition of the properties had a continued positive impact on the neighborhood. 

A Blight-Free Future for Your Neighborhood

The negative impact of abandoned properties on communities cannot be ignored, but with proactive management and revitalization efforts, these neglected spaces can be transformed into drivers of positive change. 

By utilizing advanced software like GovPilot, governments can streamline construction workflows, track vacancies, and manage properties efficiently. The strategic combination of Vacant Property Registration and the GIS Map empowers local authorities with accurate data, enabling targeted solutions and informed decision-making.

Local governments must prioritize vacant property management to build thriving communities and foster hope and progress for residents. Blight can be effectively combated by adopting comprehensive strategies and policies, implementing construction software, prioritizing local economic development, revitalizing neighborhoods, and driving sustainable growth.

To get started on digitally managing vacant properties, book a free demo of GovPilot.

Vacant Property Management in Local Government FAQs 

  1. Why Do Local Governments Need to Address Blight?

    Blight needs to be addressed by local governments to increase community pride and quality of life for citizens. Addressing blight before it happens also helps to mitigate challenges in attracting businesses and investment avoid fallout and problems such as decreased property value in your municipality, reduced tax revenues, and increased crime rates in these neglected spaces.
  2. How Does Government Housing Software Help Local Governments?

    Government housing software allows governments to efficiently and easily manage the housing conditions in their county and municipality to understand which properties are vacant or which neighborhoods need updating. Government housing software organizes the tracking of your housing stock, generates income from short-term rental property permits, streamlines inspections, and increases home ownership rates in your neighborhood.

  1. How Does Planning & Zoning Software Help Manage Properties?

    Planning and zoning software can help your government manage property vacancies and fill or repurpose the older properties to prevent a blight in your community. This software allows citizens to register their properties and apply for zoning related applications/permits. Governments can then review and fulfill requests directly within the system and automate email responses to keep the requester informed of decisions made at each stage of the workflow.

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Tags: Vacant Property Management, Government Efficiency, Digital Transformation, GovTech