The State of Vacant Property Registration

Local Vacant Property Registration Ordinances in the U.S.: An Analysis of Growth, Regional Trends, and Some Key Characteristics,” by Dan Immergluck, Yun Sang Lee and Patrick Terranova. Working Paper, August 12, 2012.

Dan Immergluck and his co-authors have published an excellent article describing the growth, regional trends, and characteristics of the vacant property registration (VPR) ordinances that are sweeping across the nation. Along with giving the numbers and locations of ordinances, the paper suggests some categories into which the fairly diverse range of VPR ordinances can be placed for comparison and analysis. This inventory and categorization set the table for researchers in a number of disciplines. The paper concludes with an invitation for the kind of applied scholarship that informs the policy and program choices of local and state government officials confronting the rising tide of empty buildings turning into solid waste along city streets.

There is controversy about VPR legislation. Servicers want uniform and convenient policing of vacant properties to minimize their responsibilities and costs. They prefer state regulation like that of Georgia and Maryland. Community residents and municipalities want to minimize the responsibilities and costs imposed on them by the dangers of vacant housing. Municipalities are being overwhelmed by the new policing burdens the housing finance crisis is imposing on them just as their local tax bases are melting. For them, a local VPR tailored to their needs and capacity is essential to deal with problems they cannot avoid.

The debate over how to balance the burden of harm and cost between global banks in control of loan collateral in distressed neighborhoods on one hand, and struggling homeowners depending on local policing of neighborhood health, safety and security on the other, needs to be informed by data and analysis of the effects of various types of VPR ordinances. This paper moves that work forward.

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