Epidemic of Abandoned Properties Hits American Cities

Although the epidemic of abandoned properties is presented in the media as affecting cities the real battle will be in city neighborhoods.Vagrants, drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves and other undesirables are attracted to abandoned properties causing the remaining residents to live in fear.The loss of taxpaying property owners leads to major shortfalls in tax revenues for essential services such as policing and fire fighting which adds to these fears.If remaining residents also decide to flee, the survival of these neighborhoods will definitely be at risk. Before discussing the challenges to residents here is a quick definition of an abandoned property.Abandoned property defined An abandoned property is a property which is intentionally and permanently relinquished by the owner (or tenant) who does not intend to use or maintain it. Some municipalities can place abandoned properties on an abandoned property list (a legal instrument which triggers significant municipal powers with regard to that property).Residents ChallengedFear has already caused a massive loss of residents from neighborhoods in the 1960′s. During that period white families in particular fled downtown neighborhoods fearing the influx of poor Afro- Americans. Most of these neighborhoods have not yet recovered more than fifty years after what was called ‘White Flight.’Experts explained ‘White Flight’ in terms of ‘tipping point theory’ whereby a large number of group members suddenly change their behavior at a point in time.Tipping-points may also apply to city neighborhoods today. Just as the whites feared the influx of poor Afro-Americans those remaining in city neighborhoods today are also living in fear. But this time the fear is of vagrants, prostitutes, drug dealers, thieves and other undesirables.So, will a similar tipping point occur in these neighborhoods? Are there lessons to be learned from the last ‘White Flight,?’ And if action is not taken soon, will city neighborhood’s invaded by these undesirables suffer a similar fate to downtown neighborhoods in the 1960′s.Here is a list of challenges which could cause residents (owners and renters) to abandon their properties. These people are afraid. And justifiably so.1. Personal SafetyResidents have reported that living near an abandoned building and having young children means that it is impossible to allow the youngsters to spend time outside for fear of their safety because of the undesirable types who are in the neighborhood. One mother of two young children reported that she assumed the females in the abandoned buildings were prostitutes and drug users, She didn’t know if the males were drug dealers, users, or if they were making drugs. But she was convinced they were living in the abandoned building. And she was afraid.2. HealthOthers have explained that living next to vacant properties and abandoned buildings often involves a sense of loss of control that vacant properties impart. Loss of control is the root of fear. That fear leads to social isolation which leads to poor health. It is a lot more than just an abandoned house next door or nearby in disrepair. It goes to the fear people have of living in the neighborhood.3. SquattersOwners and residents complain that squatters move into abandoned homes and then claim they have a right to be there. Reports have been made of squatters bringing trailers onto abandoned properties which they then strip while leaving the refuse there. There is little wonder that the remaining residents in these neighborhoods are afraid.4. Arson In Flint, Michigan, the Fire Battalion chief claimed that in April 2012 neighbors of abandoned homes feared their homes could be next! He said there were 66 suspected arsons in Flint during the first three months of 2012, up from 43 in the first three months of 2011 which saw the second most fires in recent department history. The fear of the house next door being intentionally burnt down must be scary for neighbors.5. Property ValuesIn Franklin County, OH., abandoned properties are being demolished to prevent them dragging down home values. Real property foreclosures are still comparatively high and experts agree real estate is a soft market. Loss of property values in neighborhoods with abandoned properties inevitably leads home owners to fear how they will be able to retire after the value of their homes have been dragged down.Last wordAny of these challenges, individually or jointly, could be tipping points similar to what happened before the ‘White Flight’ from downtown neighborhoods in the 1960′s. When people flee neighborhoods in large numbers the long-term survival of those neighborhood is threatened.Tipping points will be different for different neighborhoods. Which is why local politicians would be well advised to focus on the challenges to residents and their neighborhoods. If politicians fail to act now they will quickly find they are no longer representing taxpayers!If you own or rent a property close by one or more abandoned properties please let us know. And if you are thinking about leaving, tell us why. Your comments will help others who are forced to remain in these neighborhoods as well as the local politicians who represent them.The challenges to residents from undesirables invading neighborhoods may be short lived. We hope so. But if not, forewarned is forearmed. Better to be safe than sorry.

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