Blight is visually synonymous with community decline and disinvestment, but vacant and abandoned properties also present an opportunity to become assets in neighborhood revitalization efforts. It is important to match strategies for dealing with derelict properties to neighborhood market conditions, and coordinate those strategies between involved stakeholders. The Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council (VAPAC) was created to solve issues with coordination and approach the issue of neighborhood stabilization in Cuyahoga County innovatively.
The Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council was formed from a recommendation made in the 2005 Cleveland at the Crossroads report prepared by the National Vacant Properties Campaign (now the Center for Community Progress). The original members represented city and county agencies that had administrative or programmatic responsibility for property and property disposition. One of the first tasks of the committee was to lend support to the / advocate for the development of a parcel-based property data system, which is housed at Case Western Reserve University (NEO CANDO). The NEO CANDO property-data system aggregates county data and allows for strategic decision making among community development staff. It is widely regarded as one of the best community data systems in the country.
Today, VAPAC is a monthly ad-hoc group bringing together decision makers from County government, municipalities, non-profit groups, and universities to develop strategies to stabilize Cuyahoga County neighborhoods, and to break down silos that hamper effective collaboration. The group works together on research projects, including a comprehensive study of tax delinquency and tax lien sales that was published in 2015, that has resulted in policy changes that have minimized adverse and disparate impacts in the community. Frank Ford, Senior Policy Advisor at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, helped create and has chaired VAPAC for 14 years. He says of the council, it is the go-to forum for surfacing new challenges and crafting collaborative solutions in the County. VAPAC has been the catalyst for federal, state, and local policy changes and has been recognized as a model throughout the country.
The negative effects of vacant and abandoned properties often spill over into non-distressed properties in a city, causing a widespread depression of property values while increasing municipal costs to deal with blight. However, collaborative organizations like the VAPAC in Cuyahoga County can create opportunities for coordination of resources and programming to capitalize on vacant properties for neighborhood stabilization.
For more on VAPAC, see: