Keep America Beautiful Releases National Report Addressing Community Impacts of Blighted Properties

by | May 27, 2015

STAMFORD, Conn. (May 27, 2015) — Keep America Beautiful, the leading national nonprofit that envisions a country where every community is a clean, green and beautiful place to live, today announced the release of “Charting the Multiple Meanings of Blight: A National Literature Review on Addressing the Community Impacts of Blighted Properties.” The report provides a contemporary snapshot of how researchers, experts and practitioners describe and understand the complex conditions that create blight and the many policy responses that communities are taking. The executive summary and full report of “Charting the Multiple Meanings of Blight” is available on the Keep America Beautiful website.

Prepared by researchers through the Vacant Properties Research Network (VPRN), a project of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, in collaboration with Econsult Solutions Inc., a Philadelphia-based consulting firm, the national report examines more than 300 academic articles as well as special policy and practitioner reports devoted to the concept of blight.

“The term ‘blight’ continues to evolve as communities confront different types of blighted properties from littered and vacant lots to foreclosed and abandoned homes,” said Jennifer Jehn, president and CEO, Keep America Beautiful. “This research will contribute significantly to the understanding of blight, a critical environmental, economic and social issue Keep America Beautiful and our affiliates are strongly positioned to help address in urban, suburban and rural communities nationwide.

“The report will have an even broader impact because it will help us shape the development of measurement tools that will let us better assess and then prepare strategies to combat blight in all its forms at the community level,” concluded Jehn.

The primary authors outlined: 1) what recent articles and reports say about blight; 2) how policymakers and community-based organizations can leverage the report’s findings; and 3) how Keep America Beautiful and its network of community-based affiliates can build on this report to develop a blight cost calculator for community groups and local governments.  The report concludes with 10 overarching recommendations for policymakers, future research, and potential actions by Keep America Beautiful and its affiliates.

“Blight is a complex legal and policy concept with a long history,” observed Metropolitan Institute Senior Fellow Joe Schilling, a report co-author. “This pioneering synthesis of the literature will help local officials and community-based organizations, such as Keep America Beautiful and its affiliates, fashion more holistic strategies to address the community impacts of blighted properties and facilitate neighborhood revitalization.” 

Report co-author Lee Huang of Econsult Solutions Inc. agrees.  “What we found in our work is that ‘blight’ looks like and means different things in different settings. Our review of the existing literature really underscores this point, and has yielded a very rich look at how various communities define and deal with blight.”

While considerable research has examined the history of blight in the United States, its role in national policy and the experience of communities living in blighted neighborhoods, little research has systematically examined the multiple meanings of blight across contexts. This project reviews and synthesizes knowledge about blight, broadly conceived, and draws together academic literature and practitioner reports to systematically assess:

  • The nature of blight;
  • The effects of blight;
  • The factors that have shaped its development; and
  • How understandings of blight have changed over time.

This literature review will benefit policymakers, particularly in understanding how different communities are addressing rising rates of vacancy and how property abandonment has come to be a common characteristic of contemporary blight. The research also provides new and beneficial knowledge for local communities by making the changing patterns of neighborhoods more transparent. Further, for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups and their advocates struggling with blighted neighborhoods, this research will underscore many of the factors affecting their condition.

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities. With our national network of community-based affiliates, we work with millions of volunteers who take action in their communities to transform public spaces into beautiful places. Through our programs and public-private partnerships, we engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community’s environment. Learn how you can donate or take action at Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or view us on YouTube.

About Econsult Solutions Inc. 
Econsult Solutions Inc. provides insights into economic problems, policy questions, and strategic thinking. Our work focuses on providing customized economic expert services in Real Estate, Transportation, Economic Development, and Public Policy and Finance. In addition, we provide Litigation Support services in over 40 industries, as well as customized Solutions to a variety of clients. Our staff members have outstanding professional and academic credentials, including active positions at the university level, wide experience at the highest levels of the public policy process and extensive consulting experience.

About the Vacant Property Research Network
The Vacant Property Research Network (VPRN), a research initiative of the Metropolitan Institute of Virginia Tech, conducts, translates and promotes applied policy research to facilitate new models for reclaiming vacant and abandoned properties as well as the alignment of regeneration policy initiatives and programs. Launched in October 2011 with support from the Ford Foundation, the VPRN provides a dynamic platform for problem solving, policy exchanges across cities, and applied research. The VPRN tracks innovative research and policy initiatives; hosts an online public research inventory; convenes practitioner-researcher roundtables; publishes translation briefs and case studies; and is led by its VPRN Advisory Board, which provides strategic guidance to the network, serves as a repository of research expertise, and is comprised of leading and emerging scholars together with practitioners from the vacant property and legacy cities field. For more information, visit