The vacant homes that line neighborhoods of all types are grim reminders of the housing bubble that burst a few years back.
Empty homes on decaying properties that go unfixed become headaches for neighbors in more ways than one. Falling fences, tall grass and peeling paint drive down the desirability of neighborhoods and drive up the likelihood for squatters and crime.
While many vacant properties will be sold to those who want to fix them, some sit in disrepair and should be demolished. But cities are quickly running out of money to knock the houses down.
A bill, introduced by a bipartisan coalition led by Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, seeks to fix that problem by funding demolition programs through the use of government-issued bonds.
The money brought in by the program would augment the funds many states have set aside to deal with properties that have gone beyond repair. LaTourette’s home state, for instance, could supplement the demolition initiative announced by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, which set aside $75 million of the state's $335 million share of the mortgage servicer settlement to demolish vacant homes.
If passed, the bill would spark a change in the stagnant nature of the vacant homes. While cities have been initiating small fixes — like requiring owners to register vacant properties — the rules are often unenforceable or the problem grew so large it became unmanageable. This bill would finally give cities the power to deal with an ever-worsening situation.
Not much has been released about the specifics of the bill, but one thing is for certain: It represents a new territory of bipartisanship.
After months of negotiations between the attorneys general and five big banks, this bill seems to continue the trend of bipartisanship when it comes to housing fixes. It seems that the housing market has gotten so bad, that Democrats and Republicans are getting beginning to cross the aisle more.
While President Obama’s housing fixes will probably not go through, and while no GOP presidential candidate seems to have found his place when it comes to housing, smaller, locally grown solutions are finding some success. Local and state reps are close to home enough to see the problem, and create a fix that pleases both sides.