BY KATELYN CAMPBELL, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY VISTA, THE HUB
The results are in! Earlier this year, the team at The Hub asked you to share your stories of how vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated (VAD) buildings affect you and your community, and you rose to the occasion.
When we talk the effects of VAD properties, often the first thing that comes to mind is how proximity to them brings down property values. While we share this concern, the realities of the human cost of vacancy often go unmentioned. Research already shows that living near VAD properties often contributes negative health outcomes, especially for children. With that in mind, we sought to find out how West Virginians have been impacted by problem properties.
Through the statewide survey, respondents shared stories of fear of children entering abandoned properties and getting hurt; concern about accidental fires affecting their homes and safety; as well as the day-to-day struggles of the bad smells associated with unkempt properties. As one participant from Wheeling put it, “The smell is ridiculous.”
We also learned about the widespread appreciation and concern for the historic value of properties that have fallen into disrepair. Many respondents shared that they had lived in the same neighborhood as children, and that it made them sad and frustrated to see their once quaint small town plagued by the eyesores of unkempt property.
Survey results to be included in statewide report
Despite some major challenges, the future is looking bright. The stories you shared have been included in a report on the WV property tax sale process that will be presented to local, state, and county officials (as well as to other community members). This report will serve as a springboard for addressing the neglect of property that has been taking place in West Virginia for far too long, especially as it relates to the tax sale process.
That said, none of this work occurs in a vacuum. We are pleased to report that over 35% of survey participants mentioned that VAD properties inspired them to get involved in their community to make sure these issues were addressed.
Want to combat problem properties in your community? Here’s how you can get involved:
- Want to see the data behind the stories? Find out more about the Center for Community Progress’s upcoming study of Vacancy and Abandonment in West Virginia.
- 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.
- Learn more about how the use of the newly-increased State Historic Tax Credit might support projects in your community.