Blight Busting Strategies Policy Brief 0910-01

20 July 10

Prepared by:

  • Joseph Billiot
  • Huntleigh Gilbard
  • Megan Irving

This report was written by undergraduate students at Loyola University New Orleans under the direction of Professor Peter. F. Burns.


Blight is an official legal designation for properties that are vacant, uninhabitable, and hazardous. Blighted properties bring down property values, decrease the quality of life, and keep neighbors from returning. The blight problem that is epidemic in the city of New Orleans affects all aspects of society. Mayor Mitch Landrieu inherited the most blighted city in America, along with a citizenry desperate for change. Any realistic plan to completely restore New Orleans must address and resolve the complicated issue of blight.

Long-term neglect and extensive urban sprawl combine with more recent events, in particular Hurricane Katrina and Kelo vs. City of New London, to compound the dire effects of blight on New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina was an unprecedented disaster and the city government must assemble unprecedented strategies to see a redeveloped New Orleans. Legal avenues now closed by conservative eminent domain policies, created in response to the Supreme Court ruling in Kelo vs. City of New London, must be explored and possibly reopened.

Other cities such as Flint, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia, combat the implement proactive policies, such as the utilization of land banks, to combat blight. Land banks allow cities to achieve control of vacant or adjudicated property in order to return property to productive use. Cities like Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta manage vacant land and boost economic development within the city by offering land parcels coupled with tax incentives and waivers to private developers. The sale of vacant property to community organizations and developers is another way in which abandoned land is used productively. These developers, such as those in Baltimore and Cleveland, then use the previously vacant land for projects that benefit the community or neighborhoods. As state governments across the country react to the Kelo decision, the subsequent legislative changes will significantly alter the way policy analysts, lawyers, and politicians approach the issues of property rights and eminent domain.

New Orleans must institute strategic, long-term policies that reinvest in the community and focus on the specific needs of neighborhoods. Effective blight reduction strategies require that city and state governmental agencies learn to cooperate in both the political and legal realms. Comparative analysis of other cities illustrates that New Orleans could more expediently reduce its blight by adopting reinvestment policies and creating intergovernmental alliances.

If not addressed, blight and insufficient housing reconstruction will stall community-level recovery in New Orleans. Other cities reduce blight through the acquisition of vacant land. They transform unproductive properties into thriving facets of the community. New Orleans can continue to alleviate itself of blight if it adopts similar strategies.

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