A Guide for Killing Zombie Subdivisions

Across the Intermountain West, paper plats and half-completed subdivisions are straining budgets and threatening the quality of life. A new report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy identifies treatment and prevention measures.
David Prasad / Flickr

“'Zombie subdivisions' – the living dead of the real estate market – can be reconfigured for more open space or turned over to other uses, but the far better policy is to prevent the phenomenon in the first place, say Jim Holway, Don Elliott, and Anna Trentadue, authors of Arrested Developments: Combating Zombie Subdivisions and Other Excess Entitlementsthe Lincoln Institute’s latest Policy Focus Report, available for free downloading."

In such states as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, the legacy of the housing boom and bust is written across "millions of 'entitled' empty lots" located in vacant and partially-built subdivisions. "The incomplete developments—also known as 'excess entitlements' that were granted by local governments, and some of which exist only on paper —are a burden on natural resources, hurt property values, and impose fiscal strains, requiring road maintenance, infrastructure, and obligatory emergency services coverage – all without contributing to the local tax base."

Following a thorough examination of the problem using data analysis, case studies, and survey results, the authors offer policy recommendations and best practices for addressing and avoiding zombie subdivisions. 

Full Story: Confronting zombie subdivisions

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