Roundtable: You can’t solve blight through a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach

    When it comes to tackling blight, communities must build up a toolbox to address various situations.

    At a Blight Remediation and Abatement Roundtable hosted by the Louisiana Housing Corporation, Brenda Breaux, executive director New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, said that communities can’t look for a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to dealing with blight. 

    “Every blight isn’t the same and all blight shouldn’t be treated equally,” she says. “None of us in this work can do this individually. It takes collaboration, partnerships and coordination.”

    Among NORA’s strategies for incentivizing developments is providing land at a discounted price in exchange for the developer providing affordable homeownership or rental opportunities. When a piece of property goes to auction, Breaux says they consider bids by whether the project would bring the property back to commerce and require that the landowner build a house within a certain period of time. 

    She also says the agency looks to other partners to layer on benefits, like the city’s Office of Community Development and federal home lending funding. Other potential partners named during the discussion include area law schools, community organizations, and spiritual leaders and church congregations. 

    Strategies to tackle blight across the country include land banks, programs that provide grants for demolition, blight funds and social impact bonds. In Pennsylvania, liens can be placed against a property owner’s primary residence to encourage maintenance of blighted properties. 

    To craft a plan of action, Breaux suggests cities become aware of trends in their residential markets as well as have an understanding of the inventory of assets. LHC Executive Director Keith Cunningham also suggests Opportunity Zones could be worth considering as a blight remediation tool and says the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is leading a task force that aims to create a sort of guide on how communities can take advantage of the zones for redevelopment. 

    “There needs to be a coordination, a statewide strategy,” Cunningham says. “We need to galvanize around real solutions.”

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