The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.
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Examining Vacant Property Ordinances
The Atlanta Fed released a podcast in December 2012 with Dan Immergluck, professor of city and regional planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The podcast highlighted results from his analysis of the evolution and spread of vacant property registration ordinances (VPROs) using a database that he developed while he was a visiting scholar at the Atlanta Fed.
The focus of that podcast interview was strictly on high-level trends. Since a fair amount of his analysis digs deeper into regional trends, it seemed worthwhile to revisit this topic again and highlight a handful of the southeastern trends revealed in his research.
Of note, Florida and Georgia were the only states in the Southeast with local VPROs on the books (see the table).
VPROs throughout the United States
States with at least one VPRO in the database
No VPROs in the database
DC, MD, NC, VA, WV
IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
MA, NH, VT
CT*, ME, RI
DE, NJ, NY, PA
CO, KS, NE, OK, SD, WY
AL, LA, MS, TN
AZ, CA, NV, OR, UT
AK, HI, ID, WA
Note: All Connecticut localities are excluded from the database because it has a statewide vacant property registration statute, enacted in 2009, which requires registration in all localities. (Only two localities, Hartford and New Haven, had ordinances prior to the statewide registration statute being enacted.)
Source: Vacant Property Registration Ordinance Database (Immergluck)
At the time of analysis, Florida had 94 of these local ordinances, or 17 percent of the total share, while Georgia had 19 of these local ordinances, or 3 percent of the total share. Notably, one-fifth of all VPROs are within the Sixth District (see the chart).
In addition to quantifying the number of ordinances adopted by each state, Immergluck examined the growth of these ordinances over time at a regional level (see the chart). Most of the ordinances in the Southeast were adopted after 2008. Of those, 44 percent were adopted between 2008–09, and 53 percent were adopted between 2010 and mid-2012.
Beyond detailing where and when vacant property registration ordinances were adopted across the nation, Immergluck’s analysis looked closely at regional trends in the ordinance attributes.
One example of an ordinance attribute that Immergluck analyzed is the specification of exemptions. An exemption states which properties are subject to the ordinance and which propertied are excluded. The majority of ordinances in the Southeast—87 percent—have no specified exemptions, indicating that the coverage is fairly broad. By comparison, more than half of the ordinances in the Northeast, Midwest, and Plains have one or more specified exemptions (see the chart).
Another example of an ordinance attribute is the specification of a fine for noncompliance. In the Southeast region, 60 percent specify a fine amount of $500 or less, 15 percent specify fine amounts greater than $501, and 26 percent of local ordinances do not specify a fine. By comparison, all of the local vacant property registration ordinances in the New England region specify fines but most are less severe in cost, charging those who fail to comply $500 or less (see the chart).
As Immergluck suggests in his podcast, there is likely a tradeoff taking place when it comes to local VPRO attributes. When local ordinances have stricter specifications in one attribute, such as exemptions, they often are more relaxed in other specified attributes, like fine amounts for noncompliance.
It is important to note that the stated purpose of Immergluck’s research is to better understand the nature of these local ordinances. As he states in the podcast, it is too early to say how effective VPROs have been in mitigating the problems they aim to address.
For more on this topic, you can listen to the complete podcast.
By Jessica Dill, a senior economic research analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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