In preparation for the upcoming session, legislators and stakeholders are exploring legislation to create new tools for West Virginia municipalities and counties to do something about the massive problem that is abandoned and dilapidated property. One option is community homesteading.
What is community homesteading?
Homesteading is a tool to revitalize communities that have a surplus of abandoned and dilapidated housing stock.
Community homesteading programs aim to attract individuals and families to purchase, renovate, and reside in dilapidated homes in designated neighborhoods or communities through financial incentives. These incentives are most commonly developed through public partnerships with private lending institutions.
Community homesteading programs aim to attract individuals and families to purchase, renovate, and reside in dilapidated homes.
To ensure these homes don’t fall back into the hands of slumlords or out-of-state speculators, homesteading programs generally require that a buyer lives in the home for at least five years and brings the home up to minimum building, fire, and health code standards.
Community homesteading programs may target the general public, or individuals that work in specific sectors, such as the arts.
Why are West Virginians interested in community homesteading?
Abandoned and dilapidated homes are a problem in every West Virginia community. These problem properties reduce neighboring property values, increase crime and drug activity, and hobble economic development.
Although these homes have seen better days, many could still be viable housing options. However, the appraised value of dilapidated homes is often much lower than the cost of rehab. This means that renovations need to be done out-of-pocket as traditional lenders are often not able to issue mortgages above the appraised value of a home.
A community homesteading program could allow cities and counties to focus on demolishing the most offensive properties, while community-minded individuals and families begin renovating dilapidated homes before these homes reach a point where demolition is necessary.