From Vacant Property to Affordable Housing Development

The city of St. Petersburg provides a model for transforming blight to a blessing.

1 minute read

January 13, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Bank Owned

Olivier Le Queinec / Shutterstock

J. Brian Charles reports on the blight reduction efforts of St. Petersburg, Florida, where the city is leveraging the judicial system and private sector resources.

"In 2014, the city became the first in Florida to use the judicial system to wrestle neglected properties away from their owners. Because the properties, which numbered nearly 800 across the city, owed a combined $4 million in liens and unpaid assesments [sic], the city had legal standing to file lawsuits against the owners and move the properties into foreclosure," according to Charles.

The next step in the process, after seizure, is to turn over the land to affordable housing developers through auction. "The city has cut the number of boarded and vacant homes by more than three-quarters since the program was launched less than four years ago," according to Charles.

"What's unique about St. Petersburg's effort is that it specifically targets abandoned homes and vacant lots owned by absentee landlords and is focused on turning those properties into affordable homes for lower-income residents," according to Charles, after comparing the blight reduction programs of Baltimore, Detroit, and Cleveland.

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