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Vacant and Abandoned Properties: An ‘Issue of National Concern’

abandoned-houseBuilding on the momentum of a meeting with HUD Secretary Julián Castro last week, Five Star Institute President and CEO Ed Delgado moderated an important industry panel on Thursday entitled Transforming Blighted Communities, addressing what he has called an "issue of national concern."

Eliminating blight by accelerating the foreclosure process on vacant and abandoned properties—thus reducing the amount of time the properties are vacant—has been a goal of Delgado and the Five Star Institute for four years. Vacant properties can potentially have a devastating effect on their surrounding community because they often become magnets for vandalism, squatting, and violent crime. In extreme cases, blighted properties have even led to the tragic loss of life.

"Michaela Diemer, Mary Ellen Gutierrez, Jasmine Trotter, Anith Jones, Ahlyja Pinson … the list of names goes on," Delgado said. "These are just a few of the hundreds of women have been raped or murdered in or near a vacant and abandoned property. They’re ordinary people. People that were mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. The issue of vacant properties has become more than the expedient treatment of a distressed residential property. These shells have become a bastion for weapons, drugs, gangs, molestations and violent assaults. How many more must be harmed or tragically lose their life before a policy of common sense comes into play?"

Last week when he met with Castro, Delgado asked the HUD Secretary to consider opening up a dialogue with the servicing industry to talk about vacant and abandoned properties. Castro promised to look over the proposal when it reached his desk.

The panel moderated by Delgado on Thursday included Robert Klein, chairman and co-founder of SecureView and chairman of Safeguard Properties; Richard Monocchio, executive director, Cook County Housing Authority; Gina Metrakas, director of urban revitalization, Rock Ventures; and James F. Taylor, SVP, asset management and preservation, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. The panel discussed such topics as the extent of the blight problem in the country and what threat that blighted properties pose to the communities in which they are located; the problems with using plywood to board windows in vacant and abandoned homes and whether servicers are on board with using clear board; what states and local municipalities are doing to address the blight issue; and what progress can be expected on eliminating blight in neighborhoods nationwide.