In one of the original reports on this topic, The National Vacant Properties Campaign (now the Center for Community Progress) discuss the true cost to communities as a result of vacant properties.

Executive Summary
By all accounts, vacant properties are a curse. Just ask anyone who lives next to a drug den, a
boarded-up firetrap or a trash-filled lot. But abandonment often seems beyond the control of local
officials, and it rarely incites a sense of urgency beyond the neighbors on the block where it occurs.

But the evidence shows that vacant properties are an expense that local governments simply
cannot afford – and that the expense grows with every year a property remains vacant or
abandoned. Such properties produce no or little property tax income, but they require plenty of
time, attention, and money:

  • A study in Austin, Texas found that “blocks with unsecured [vacant] buildings had 3.2 times as many drug calls to police, 1.8 times as many theft calls, and twice the number of violent calls” as blocks without vacant buildings.
  • More than 12,000 fires break out in vacant structures each year in the US, resulting in $73 million in property damage annually. Most are the result of arson.
  • Over the past five years, St. Louis has spent $15.5 million, or nearly $100 per household, to demolish vacant buildings. Detroit spends $800,000 per year and Philadelphia spends $1,846,745 per year cleaning vacant lots.
  • A 2001 study in Philadelphia found that houses within 150 feet of a vacant or abandoned property experienced a net loss of $7,627 in value.

The aim of this report is to summarize the many and varied costs that vacant and abandoned
properties impose upon communities. It compiles research from across the country quantifying
a wide variety of costs, including city services (nuisance abatement, crime and fire prevention),
decreased property values and tax revenues, as well as the costs born by homeowners and the issue
of the spiral of blight.

This report also includes some good news: communities are finding ways to recapture the value
in vacant properties, bringing vitality back to once blighted neighborhoods. These communities
are providing valuable lessons for us all, and many of the most successful practices are being
replicated throughout the country.

To view the report in its entirety, please click here.

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