The newest edition of HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research Journal discusses methodologies for measuring urban blight.
“Across the United States, communities struggle with blighted urban environments and associated negative outcomes, including reduced property values, increased criminal activity, and poor health of residents. Historically, blight has been difficult, labor-intensive, and expensive for researchers to measure.”

Included in this edition;

  • examination of the relationship between inner-city blight and urban sprawl in the United States. The study finds “that city-center vacancy rates positively correlate with levels of urban sprawl, suggesting that policies that limit sprawl may also work to mitigate blight.”
  • presentation of a system of detecting abandoned houses using deep learning techniques for image classification. This approach “requires fewer resources compared to older approaches to measuring blight, is sensitive to local contexts, and is scalable to empower communities and cities to design more effective strategies to address housing abandonment.”
  • investigation of the degree to which tract-scale data on vacancy from the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Census Bureau correlate with physical blight.
  • discussion of challenges in assessing blight using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Aggregated U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Administrative Data on Address Vacancies arising from the use of the category “not-a-statistic” (“no-stat”) to describe addresses not receiving mail.

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