This week, I got into the trenches with COPR Security to start building a national movement to fight blight in our nation’s cities. As many of you know, I’ve been working with COPR on an Indiegogo campaign designed to bring security and investment into communities that most need it. While blight is a multilayered problem, we know that securing vacant properties is a necessary first step to restore security and bring needed investment into downtrodden neighborhoods.
This point was driven home for me as I worked with COPR this week to film their Indiegogo video. The shoot brought us into one of Kansas City’s toughest neighborhoods, and the lessons of the day were powerful ones for me. Here are some of my key takeaways:
Security is a vital first step. We shot our video at a beautiful historic home under restoration on Kansas City’s east side. However, the challenges presented to the small developer rehabbing the property are staggering. For example, he cannot leave anything in the home because theft is rampant in the area. Even leaving for lunch puts his tools at risk. Small developers like him usually are tight on cash flow, so tool theft can literally sink them. Because these types of developers represent the majority of investment in blighted neighborhoods, it is crucial that they feel secure.
Securing vacant property must be simple. Here are some pictures from the interior of the home:
As you can see, the home is in a state of flux. This means that it’s very difficult to install any kind of a permanent security system. COPR’s system can be quickly installed and easily moved, making it a rehabber’s best friend.
Small/Mid-size developers are vital. And yet, they are often not treated well by city government. For example, the developer working on the home we filmed in had received several tickets from the city. Not for anything he had done wrong, but the city simply felt he wasn’t finishing in a timely fashion. Not only is this crippling for a small developer, it is also hypocritical. The area was filled with vacant homes that were falling apart because the city has no owner to chase. Developers should be encouraged by cities to enter these communities and develop properties. Cities should also acknowledge that this process is expensive, difficult, and unpredictable for developers.
‘Blighted’ neighborhoods are hidden gems. The home we filmed in was a beautiful and historic three story home. Once restored, it will be a testament to the history of the neighborhood. The same is true for many of our nation’s most troubled communities. Before urban sprawl, these communities were vibrant centers of activity. As a result, the homes are high quality, but have simply been neglected. Revitalizing these communities will restore our cities to their former glory.
Blight is a multifaceted problem. Recall from this Tuesday’s post that any solution to blight requires collaboration among developers, cities, businesses, and non-profits. This is why our Indiegogo campaign features voices from all of these sectors. COPR has also been very deliberate about working with these parties to develop a solution that makes sense to all stakeholders. However, the COPR Security VP Smart Tower is only a piece of that solution. The true power of our Indiegogo campaign is in its ability to unite developers, cities, and non-profits in the fight against blight.
I’ve been deeply involved in the fight against blight since my days as an AmeriCorps member, but the video shoot this week opened my eyes to the vital importance of empowering developers to combat vacant properties. This can be done, and I’m proud to be a part of an effort that I strongly believe will transform communities.