Community homesteading has captured my heart and my imagination. And it seems I’m not alone.
A flurry of social media activity surrounded this article introducing the concept. Readers overwhelmingly expressed how homesteading could help revitalize their communities. I even heard from a handful of out-of-state artists (one as far away as Seattle) interested in relocating to West Virginia.
You might also recall a bipartisan group of delegates from Kanawha and Fayette Counties introduced a bill during the 2016 legislative session to create a homesteading pilot program. Although the bill died, there’s a possibility it could be reworked and introduced again next year.
Why all the fuss?
Community homesteading programs encourage individuals and families to purchase, renovate, and reside in vacant and dilapidated homes by offering a financial incentive (e.g. loan, grant, tax break, or other monetary benefit). Potential benefits include:
- Rehabilitation of vacant and dilapidated homes;
- Rebuilding the tax base;
- Economic diversification through sector development;
- Substantial return on investment.
But what does homesteading really look like in practice?
It turns out homesteading can take many forms — and go by many different names. Check out just a few of the successful homesteading efforts from other states.
Farnsworth Street – Detroit, Michigan
A grassroots efforts to stabilize Farnsworth Street by purchasing and rehabbing vacant homes one-by-one and farming the surrounding vacant lots — all done by individuals of modest means.
Over the years, rehabbers and community-minded renters and homebuyers worked out informal incentives, including reduced rent and seller-financed home sales, often in exchange for some agricultural work. Get a better sense of “the block that blight forgot.”
Artist Relocation Program – Paducah, Kentucky
The City of Paducah revitalized one of its most historic and most rundown neighborhoods by offering artists city-held properties for as low as $1. A local bank also offered low-interest loans with no down payment for the full cost of buying and restoring property.
Since the program’s launch in 2000, over 75 artists and residents invested more than $30 million to restore the neighborhood. The city has invested $2 million — and so received a $14 return on every $1 invested. For more information about Paducah’s success, check out this article.
Oil City Artist Relocation Program – Oil City, Pennsylvania
In a city of roughly 10,000 people, more than 30 are artists that have purchased homes through the Oil City Artist Relocation Program. Because the program connects artists with local realtors and existing financial incentives, the true key to its success is a national marketing campaign. Learn more about the impact the program and the arts have had on Oil City.
Greater Circle Living – Cleveland, Ohio
Over the past 10 years, Greater Circle Living has encouraged more than 300 employees of organizations based in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood to live near their workplaces by offering forgivable loans for down payment assistance and matching funds for exterior renovations.
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in homesteading, or if you know of a similar program in West Virginia or out-of-state that we should spotlight.