Community Redevelopment and Revitalization

Background

Redevelopment is an approach wherein a community reuses previously-developed land to catalyze new economic growth, provide new housing options or community amenities, or otherwise encourage growth to improve quality of life. In areas experiencing disinvestment and declining property values, effective redevelopment planning and land use can help reverse those trends.

However, redevelopment efforts can create adverse effects. Rising property values can result in the displacement of small local businesses and long-time residents. 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 negative long-term fiscal and economic outcomes.

Well-planned communities 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 communities, 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 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, who are more likely to be older adults, people with low incomes, or members of racial or ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination. Displacement can be particularly problematic for older adults, who may have longstanding social ties and informal support systems in their community and for whom 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 use) limits the use of private property to the point where the property owners do not retain an economically reasonable value, 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, zoning, and protections of people with disabilities. As such, they should be viewed with caution (see also Chapter 2, Budget and the Economy—Budgetary Impact of Limiting Regulatory Authority).

Blight—abandoned and blighted housing is a problem for many urban and suburban neighborhoods across the country. 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.

Parking—parking issues have gained prominence in overall land-use policy discussions. Jurisdictions are revising their parking policies to create walkable, mixed-use communities that support public transportation use, generate revenue, and reduce the cost of housing. Striking the right balance between having sufficient parking and meeting other community goals, such as user accessibility, is an ongoing challenge.

COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AND REVITALIZATION: Policy

Revitalization

In this policy: FederalLocalState

Areas that are at risk for deterioration, abandonment, and blight should be targeted for planning and revitalization. Displacement of current residents must be minimized. Housing affordability and homelessness must also be addressed. If displacements occur, policymakers should ensure that those who are displaced receive assistance in securing new housing. There should be sufficient flexibility in redevelopment funds’ eligibility criteria to allow those funds to be applied to multiple community investment opportunities

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 use reasonably or perform other necessary functions.

Funding revitalization projects: State and local policymakers should consider a range of incentives and policy options for funding revitalization projects but must consider the long-term and regional economic impacts of their use.

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 programs that include rehabilitation of properties as an eligible activity should include the rehabilitation of rental properties as well as primary residences.

Congress and the states should ensure that housing assistance programs include options for abandoned properties as part of their strategy for reducing homelessness and overcrowding.

Infrastructure investment: Policymakers should consider the infrastructure needs of all community members as part of community development and revitalization, including water, storm and sanitary, sewer, transportation, power, and broadband.

Congress and the states should ensure that funds are available for community development and revitalization initiatives that include a range of community infrastructure investment options.

Parking supply: Local policymakers should minimize the amount of parking required for mixed-use development in order to support travel by means other than private vehicle and to encourage the creation of walkable, livable communities. At the same time, they should take into account the needs of people with disabilities and those with limited mobility who must rely on personal vehicles.

Local policymakers should consider parking solutions such as parking benefit districts and shared parking, to avoid creating excess parking space.

Parking lot design: Local policymakers should implement parking lot design standards and guidelines in an effort to make parking lots safer for pedestrians of all ages and those with limited ability.

Newly constructed or reconstructed parking lots should provide adequate parking spaces compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and based on anticipated disability rates of an aging population. Proper use of these spaces should be enforced.

Local authorities should ensure proper illumination of parking lots to enhance safety.

State and local governments should address parking lot safety in their pedestrian safety communications campaigns. These campaigns should be targeted to pedestrians and drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should organize a national effort to collect parking lot crash statistics and use the data to inform safety countermeasures.