Comes to us from Governing.
After one of the longer winters in recent memory, the city of Milwaukee is planning to engage in a new kind of rebirth. As the ice melts away, a number of parcels of city-owned land that have long lain vacant and unused will be coming back to life, set to become urban farms and orchards yielding healthy food along with new opportunities for employment and business entrepreneurship.
It’s all part of Mayor Tom Barrett’s HOME GR/OWN program, a Bloomberg Mayors Challenge finalist whose mission, beyond increasing access to fruits and vegetables, is to turn the city’s growing liability of vacant, foreclosed land into an asset: space for new economic activity that helps to stabilize distressed neighborhoods. We recently had a chance to talk with HOME GR/OWN’s program manager, Tim McCollow, about the program’s launch now that spring appears to finally be on its way.
When vacant properties in Milwaukee are tax-foreclosed, ending up under city ownership, they become substantial liabilities, costing the city $250 to $1,000 annually in direct costs of upkeep. And there are serious indirect impacts: attracting crime, stymying neighborhood cohesion and development, eating away at civic morale, and keeping property values, wealth creation and supportive tax revenues low.
The city is working in a smart way to shift these property liabilities out of the municipal budget and convert them to assets. HOME GR/OWN, a 2013 startup, is related to another effort Barrett launched this year: the Strong Neighborhoods Investment Plan. With $11.8 million in city funding, it aims to intensify the marketing of salvageable homes, raze 300 that are beyond repair and fund vacant-lot rehabilitation. HOME GR/OWN will help neighborhood associations, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs turn those vacant properties into the pieces of a new distributed food system.
Retrieved April 24, 2014 from http://www.governing.com/blogs/bfc/gov-milwaukee-mayor-tom-barrett-home-grown-vacant-lots-urban-agriculture.html