The Root Problems of Urban Vacancy


Brownfields, vacant buildings, empty lots, fenced-off concrete disaster zones, that acre of squalor that smells faintly of rust and death — call them what you will. Cleveland, along with plenty of other Rust Belt cities, have plenty of them. Why? The answers are complex. Some have to do with cleaning up the sites, which may contain hazardous waste. Some have to do with a city budget that only allocates so much money to razing buildings.

But vacant lots and buildings are also allowed to remain perpetual eyesores because of antiquated state laws that, while minor at first glimpse, throw up roadblocks as cities try to deal with the mess.

So argues Jennifer Vey in The New Republic, describing a paper she co-wrote on how "tax foreclosure, land banking, code enforcement, and other areas" handcuff localities.

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