Blight is a complex legal and policy concept with a long history. This pioneering synthesis of the literature will help local officials and community-based organizations fashion more holistic strategies to address the community impacts of blighted properties and facilitate neighborhood revitalization.
Recently, a growing number of cities have launched anti-blight campaigns and blight remediation initiatives to address the proliferation of vacant and abandoned properties caused by the cumulative effects of long-term postindustrial decline, systemic racism expressed in policies and ownership inequities, shrinking populations, and the mortgage foreclosure crisis of the early 2000s.
Civic leaders and government officials have struggled for nearly a century to define blight and deploy effective policies and programs to address its community impacts. Blight encompasses vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and houses in derelict or dangerous shape, and environmental contamination. But blight can also refer to smaller property nuisances that creep up on cities and suburbs: overgrown lawns, uncollected litter, and inadequate street lighting, and other signs of neglect. In fact, the legal and policy foundation of blight can be found in longstanding principles of public nuisance: property conditions that interfere with the general public’s use of their properties. Although there is widespread debate about what exactly blight is and how people should talk about it, the most useful description is “land so damaged or neglected that it is incapable of being beneficial to a community without outside intervention.”
VPR Network has developed multiple documents on blight’s multiple dimensions. In 2015, VPR Network released a national literature review and policy brief on blight. Have more questions? Email us.