Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy


The fields of urban policy and urban planning lack a cohesive and comprehensive framework for recycling vacant and abandoned properties. Past and present efforts to repurpose vacant land and abandoned properties were often narrow responses driven primarily by economic redevelopment policies such as urban renewal of the 1950s & 1960s, deindustrialization of the 1970s & 1980s, and the public-private partnerships featured during the 1990s & 2000s. The 2008-2015 mortgage foreclosure crisis and Great Recession put the policy spotlight on how to address the widespread impacts from thousands of vacant and/or foreclosed homes that affected diverse markets and communities across the country. Even today, dozens of communities, especially those older industrial legacy cities, still have neighborhoods and districts with hundreds, even thousands of vacant homes. The COVID-19 Pandemic now presents policymakers with another socio-economic crisis that will dramatically impact our communities and its built environment. As communities begin the slow recovery process, they may confront waves of housing instability and business disruptions that could trigger significant increases in vacant homes and abandoned properties. This article outlines the core policy and program foundations for reclaiming vacant properties and abandoned buildings; identifies the policy and program innovations that can scale brownfields redevelopment to address challenges around equity, sustainability, and resilience; and provides a framework for a collaborative, cross agency, cross sector policy and planning framework that can address contemporary and future land recycling crises.

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