Photo by Brandon Warren/FlickrCC
BY KATELYN CAMPBELL, ABANDONED PROPERTIES COALITION AND COMM. DEV. POLICY VISTA, THE HUB
Since the 1982 release of James Wilson and George Kelling’s paper on broken windows theory, we’ve been aware of how the presence of problem properties in communities often correlates with poor outcomes. But did you know that vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated properties in your community could be making you sick?
Studies show that the presence of long-term vacant properties in a neighborhood is often accompanied by increased rates of heart attack, obesity, hypertension, and alcohol usage. A 2005 report from the Rand Corporation further reveals that communities with high concentrations of abandoned properties often have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, and suicide. On Charleston’s own West Side, researchers from West Virginia University recently reported the story of the long-term effects of blight and neglect on public health in the neighborhood, particularly for children.
It’s clear: living with blight is stressful, and stress compounded over years can add up to deadly outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Around West Virginia, we have already seen the way community members’ passion is moving the needle on addressing blighted properties. From Whitesville to Wheeling to the Eastern Panhandle, teams of volunteers are uniting through the BAD Buildings program to combat blight on their home turf. The Huntington Urban Renewal Authority has been so diligent and innovative in its work that it recently earned a scholarship from the Center for Community Progress to give insight on how to expand its model statewide (look out for the report’s release in November). Fighting blight takes time and energy, and it’s our job to step up to the plate.
Have some elbow grease you’d like to give? Here are some ways to get involved:
- Take a note out of Grafton and Buckhannon’s book and create a community space in your downtown. Did you know that “greening” of vacant properties can reduce your ambulatory heart rate?
- Have former residential buildings in your town or county that need to come down? Check in with the Hub’s Policy Coordinator Taylor Bennett to see if the Property Rescue Initiative might be a good fit for you.
- History buffs wanted! Learn more about the campaign to support the increase of the state historic tax credit, and how restoring historic buildings make a difference in your community.