Community Redevelopment and Revitalization

Background

Redevelopment reuses previously developed land to catalyze new economic growth. It can provide new housing options or community amenities. And it can otherwise encourage growth to improve quality of life. In areas experiencing disinvestment and declining property values, effective redevelopment planning and land useHow an area is used or managed. This includes residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and other uses. Mixing land uses and allowing for flexible use of land can improve livability. can help reverse those trends.

However, redevelopment efforts can create adverse effects. Rising property values can result in the displacement of long-time residents and small local businesses. People with low incomes, who are less able to pay increased property taxes, may be particularly vulnerable to displacement. Given these potential negative outcomes, citizen participation is essential to redevelopment efforts. Regional cooperation is also crucial. Jurisdictions can work together to promote economic opportunities for all people while limiting adverse long-term fiscal and economic outcomes.

Well-planned redevelopment efforts lead to sustainable growth. They also meet the needs of residents of all ages, abilities, and incomes. Mixed-use development, affordable housing, and other sustainable designs are key elements. Poorly planned redevelopment efforts, on the other hand, can lead to overcrowding, affordable housing shortages, low property values, and infrastructure declines. Communities may also suffer as a result of poorly thought-out or discriminatory public policies and disaster response plans. Declines in a community’s quality of life often disproportionately affect older residents because they may be unwilling or unable to leave their communities.

State and local governments use a range of policies that help finance and support redevelopment, including allocating funds from federal programs, such as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, and the Opportunity Zones program. However, promising innovations and solutions may be limited if programs are insufficiently flexible. For example, rural areas have limited access to CDBG funds. Initiatives that serve wide geographical areas and offer significant benefits to residents with low incomes may not qualify to receive federal funding.

Eminent domain: Eminent domain is the authority of the government to take over private property for a public purpose, with constitutionally mandated “just compensation” for the property owner.

The use of eminent domain can have a profound impact on those who are displaced. These individuals are more likely to be older, low income, or from historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups. Displacement can be particularly problematic for older adults, who may have longstanding social ties and informal support systems in their community. For them, relocation is frequently physically or economically difficult.

In order to protect the community from the potential abuse of eminent domain powers, legislatures often limit the circumstances in which it can be used. But cities often need to use eminent domain to complete redevelopment projects that help create livable communities for all. The key is finding the right balance.

Attempts to reform eminent domain and prevent its abuse are often combined with reforms of what is known as regulatory takings. Takings occur when a government regulation (such as one relating to land useHow an area is used or managed. This includes residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and other uses. Mixing land uses and allowing for flexible use of land can improve livability.) limits the use of private property to the point where the property owners do not retain an economically reasonable value. This is the case even though they still retain the title, and the government has not seized the property. Reforms in these regulations could affect basic governmental powers, such as environmental protection, zoningRegulations that determine how land can be developed, where buildings are constructed, how they can be used, and more. Exclusive single-family residential zoning reduces housing options and typically increases the need to drive., and protections of people with disabilities. As such, they should be viewed with caution (see also Budgetary Impact of Limiting Regulatory Authority).

Blight: Abandoned and blighted housing is a problem for many urban and suburban neighborhoods. Blighted housing may lead to increased isolation for remaining residents, depressed housing values, and increased criminal activity. Local governments can pursue a variety of strategies to combat blight, including increasing resources for code enforcement officers, supporting residents who are addressing blight in their neighborhood, and creating courts to rule specifically on blight-related cases.

COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AND REVITALIZATION: Policy

COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AND REVITALIZATION: Policy

Revitalization

Areas at risk for deterioration, abandonment, and blight should be targeted for planning and revitalization. Revitalization project should minimize displacement of current residents. If displacements occur, policymakers should ensure that those who are displaced receive assistance in securing new housing. Housing affordability and homelessness must also be addressed.

State and local policymakers should consider a range of incentives and policy options for funding revitalization projects. They should also consider the long-term and regional economic impacts of their use. Redevelopment funds should be able to be applied to multiple community investment opportunities as appropriate.

Policymakers should consider the infrastructure needs of all community members as part of community development and revitalization. This includes water, sewer, storm, transportation, power, and high-speed internet (see also Water and Sewer and High-Speed Internet Services).

Congress and state policymakers should ensure that community development and revitalization initiatives include a range of community infrastructure investment options.

Eminent domain reform: Measures to reform eminent domain should allow for the exercise of such power in ways that follow AARP’s Livable Communities Principles and should not include elements designed to eliminate the government’s ability to regulate land useHow an area is used or managed. This includes residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and other uses. Mixing land uses and allowing for flexible use of land can improve livability. reasonably or perform other necessary functions.

Blight: Local governments should balance the public interest with individual property rights when labeling properties as “blighted” and when considering the use of eminent domain on blighted properties.

Housing assistance funds that can be used to rehabilitate properties should be used for both rental properties and primary residences.

Congress and state policymakers should include options for abandoned properties as part of their strategy to reduce homelessness and overcrowding.