From Vacant to Vibrant: The Vacant Properties Community Impact Initiative (V2V)

Vacant and abandoned properties are a curse to a neighborhood, increasing crime, reducing property values, increasing costs for city government, and increasing risk to public health and welfare.

It’s estimated there are 3900 vacant houses and vacant lots in the UNI neighborhoods.

In response, UNI is leading “Vacant to Vibrant: The Vacant Properties Community Impact Initiative” (V2V). The hard-working group of 45 community leaders and representatives from more than 30 organizations first came together in March 2015. Active partners include agencies of the federal government, KCMO City Departments, developers and real estate entities, public and private financial providers, and key community entities such as the KCMO Police Department, Legal Aid of Western Missouri, University of Missouri –Kansas City, and Mid-America Regional Council.

The path to bringing a vacant property back to life is difficult and murky, so V2V action teams were formed to work on five critical impediments to the process.

Clearing Titles

: This group has engaged pro bono legal services to draft a template for quieting titles as well as to quiet the existing backlog of clouded titles as it authors a white paper outlining the local problem, costs and remedies as a tool to advocate for legal, policy and regulatory changes at the city, county and state levels. The group will work to push implementation of key strategies identified.

Marketing Vacant Properties and Promoting Neighborhoods

: In 2015, the group developed the concept of and specific criteria for UNI Market-Building Demonstrations Blocks. In 2016, UNI took applications and selected three neighborhood blocks to help build a healthy block and thereby strengthen the neighborhood and spur the market in adjacent blocks. We will work to attract investment and will use the block as a “learning lab” as we work through barriers to transforming vacant properties. All phases of the process are implemented in close collaboration with neighborhood partners.

Integrating Green Spaces and Urban Farms

: In 2015, this team piloted educational sessions to help neighborhoods better understand the value of and ways to transform vacant land into green spaces and urban farms. The team is writing and publishing a Guide to Working with Lots to educate residents how to design green spaces on vacant lots. The Guide will provide templates for green projects each of which outlines the costs, level of expertise needed and the amount of maintenance required to assist in decision making. We will also provide workshops along with mini-grants to implement projects.

Promoting Process Innovation and Efficiency

: This action group works to delineate processes as they are and secure buy in to simplify them as needed. Last year, this group developed a model of how to acquire Land Bank property, the first step in developing a comprehensive website to inform and guide those interested in purchasing and rehabbing vacant properties. This group has explored processes related to codes, permits and tax abatements and will continue to do so while advocating for improvements and building out an informational website.

Securing Funding

: This action team has assembled an initial list of funding sources and incentives that will evolve into a comprehensive financial resource to guide local buyers and potential investors. Group members are also researching an innovative financial tool to deploy in the UNI to help finance vacant property projects. The group will help fill gaps identified for implementation of plans in the Demonstration Blocks.