The July 12 Housing Committee meeting focused on vacant residential land. Through the housing and foreclosure crisis and the recession, homes went abandoned and after sitting empty for several years, many became blighted in our neighborhoods.
Through state grants given to County Landbanks, the City of Middletown has removed approximately 500 blighted homes during the past decade. While removing blight and places where crime are occurring is a good thing, in this case, we created a problem as we solved a problem.
We punched holes throughout many neighborhoods, leaving blank empty lots scattered throughout the neighborhoods. Not only did they serve no purpose at this point, but we also had to mow them as a city at a cost of about $250,000 per year to keep our vacant lots from blighting the neighborhood. And… of course now there were no property taxes coming in where the house used to be and no potential for future income tax.
We’ve had various programs to sell vacant lots to the neighbor next door, and we’ve sold off several lots each year. Bottom line, however, is that we still have hundreds of vacant lots and no plan to do anything with them except mow them. While removing immediate blight is not a terrible short term strategy, leaving grassy residential lots indefinitely is not a long term answer.
Other communities have utilized these lots for many different purposes. Bigger lots can have in-fill construction to build a new house on the now vacant lot. Other smaller lots have been utilized for neighborhood basketball courts, green space, pocket parks, public art and cultural exhibits, walking trails and community gardens.
I gave the example below of how we could create a flow chart that led us to the proper use of vacant residential lots. We discussed the pros and cons and the chart below is for discussion purposes only. It is a concept that we will develop more clearly as part of the new policy.
As always, if you wish to see the meeting or the materials that we are reviewing for discussion, you can view everything at the link below.