Planning Policies and Regulations that can reduce the Practice of Private Property Abandonment in the United States

Many communities in the U.S. have suffered population loss and decline for several decades.  This population loss and economic decline has resulted in widespread residential, industrial, and commercial abandonment.  The pattern of abandonment that we see in many communities we contend is in a large part due to current land ownership policies that allow landowners to literally “walk away” from their privately held parcels and burden the public sector with the cost of blight removal. This flood of abandonment and subsequent blight has left communities with a large number of vacant properties and limited public resources to rehabilitate or commission deconstruction. This paper examines the feasibility of adopting public planning regulations that would require private sector entities to secure financial instruments (ie. insurance and guarantee bonds) on newly constructed commercial and industrial structures.  These instruments would ensure that at the end of a structure’s useful life financial resources to fund the deconstruction of the structure would be available, thus ending the current practice of private property abandonment and alleviate the hardships placed on a community to finance the removal of blighted structures. These regulations have the potential to correct the inherent inequality and imbalance the current system of private property abandonment on the general public, by placing the cost of deconstruction on the owners/customers of a specific product or service. A variety of precedent setting policies and practices that seek to mitigate the cost of rehabilitation/abandonment of private sector structures and activities (mining, oil rigs, cell towers etc.) are examined. The research paper identifies current practices that use a system of financial assurance to ensure funding for deconstruction, their enabling legislation, their methods of operation, and concludes with policy recommendations that may be adopted to transform the current pattern of private property abandonment. 

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The Urban Core Mayors

The Urban Core Mayors (UCM) is a bipartisan, multi-regional coalition ofMichigan’s thirteen central city mayors intended to address areas of mutual concern as well as develop and implement an agenda for local and state policy for cities.  The group provides mayors with regional and professional support, the opportunity to combine resources, and a common venue to share information.  Through this group, mayors exchange information and ideas with fellow mayors about mutual concerns and local policies and practices that have benefited individual cities. UCM intends to enhance local governance and provide mayors with innovative resources to combat their cities’ problems. This group establishes a network for collaborative policy learning and leadership to revitalizeMichigan’s core cities.

Since its formation in 1992, the UCM has undertaken a variety of collaborative initiatives.  The group helped craft the state’s highly regarded brownfield redevelopment legislation in 1995, worked with state government to improve Michigan’s Renaissance Zone program, and continues to advocate for bipartisan federal and state policy to be attentive and responsive to urban concerns.  In 1998 and 2000, the Mayors collaborated with the Bipartisan Urban Caucus of the Michigan House of Representatives to organize Urban Summits to develop a common policy agenda for urban Michigan. In 2008, the Urban Core Mayors and the Bipartisan Urban Caucus organized a series of policy briefings based on policy analysis research projects commissioned in direct response to priority issues identified by member mayors (view them here). The Urban Core Mayors strive to create positive policy changes favoring Michigan’s core cities and improving residents’ quality of life through innovative policy, collaboration, and continuous improvement. 

Founding members include the mayors of Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Bay City, Dearborn, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Muskegon, Pontiac, and Saginaw. These thirteen cities anchor metropolitan regions that collectively include more than eight million ofMichigan’s ten million residents.

The Cultural Economy Team

The Cultural Economy Team is currently working on a project partially funded by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. An extension of previous research, this project hopes to examine the habits of creative people in their work place. Subjects were selected by their having received a Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) grant for being an innovative and entrepreneurial business. Previous research suggests that creative people are able to think in more relaxing environments, so this study aims to identify structural and cultural aspects of the work environment that may enhance creativity and engagement. To this end, Dr. Young Lee of the MSU School of Planning Design and Construction has joined the team to lend her expertise to the area of work place design. The team is still in its formative stages of creating a structure for interviews and identifying a Board of Advisors. They hope to be able to get out into the workplaces of creative Michigan industries beginning next semester.

MSU EDA University Center for Regional Economic Innovation

Michigan's talent pool, innovation infrastructure, and research commercialization and technology transfer support systems continue to be weak. Programs to support business, workforce/talent development, technology transfer, and commercial innovation are compartmentalized, not aligned, and isolated from each other. The Michigan business tax code was recently changed, severely reducing traditional economic development tools including those that rely on tax abatements. Economic development in Michigan is fragmented and in disarray In general but without such tools economic development professionals are not well prepared to develop or implement new strategies to create jobs or assist entrepreneurs.

These gaps provide an important opportunity that is coincident with the state's development needs to engage the new innovation-based globalized economy. The new Michigan State University EDA University Center for Regional Economic Innovation (REI) under the Center for Community and Economic Development auspices, will establish a unique new-economy development ecosystem. From this engagement will come new mindsets and development practices that are congruent with the new global and regional economic realities and make available the assets of Michigan's universities for the support of: (1) regional commercialization efforts; (2) advancing entrepreneurship; and (3) cultivating a high-skilled regional work force. It will be a model of responsive community engagement, strategic partnerships, and collaborative learning.

The REI goals will be accomplished through dynamic networks between Michigan higher education institutions, local public and private sector leaders, workforce development boards, community action agencies, state agencies, public utilities, commercial lenders and EDA Economic Development Districts. The dominant means of communication will be face-to-face meetings for the Consultative Panel and electronic interactions for the various networks. This networking structure is feasible based on the experience and continuous maturation of the capabilities of MSU CCED.

MSU CCED Regional Export Strategies Project

In the current regional exporting strategies project, the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development project team is collaborating with the East Michigan Council of Governments (EMCOG), which covers the Saginaw Bay region, and the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission. The project goal is to research, identify, and take advantage of opportunities to increase exporting to Canada and other foreign markets. Such market expansion can lead to increased company revenues and new jobs. A world-class network of experts has been assembled to help guide and implement this 30-month project that is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.