Shrinking Cities

State and Local Initiatives


Comprehensive Plans

Youngstown 2010 is Youngstown, OH’s updated comprehensive plan. The plan takes into account population and employment loss and proposes planning techniques to address vacancy and abandonment. For example, the plan reduces the overall commercial land use designation by 16%, reduces residential land use by 30%, and introduces “industrial green”. Industrial green allows for more environmentally friendly and sustainable industrial and office uses by discouraging heavy and polluting industrial uses and allowing for adaptive reuse of vacant industrial land and buildings. Comprehensive planning is an effective tool to understand and accept the loss of population and employment, while introducing practices to encourage regeneration.

Youngstown 2010 may be accessed via
Rochester, NY’s Project Green is an example of an element to a comprehensive plan that accepts decline and provides for alternative land uses, redevelopment, and other policy solutions. The plan element may be found at

Reimagining Cleveland Grants

Cleveland, OH allocated $500,000 of their Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds for grants to individuals, community organizations, non-profits, and small businesses for creative and productive reuses of vacant land. Kent State University developed goals, strategies, and programs for redeveloping vacant and abandoned land into green space and other productive uses.

Examples of redevelopment projects may include the following:

  • Rain gardens or other storm water retention projects.
  • Off street parking with pervious paving and/or bio-swales
  • Bio- or phyto-remediation projects (cleaning soil contamination through the use of microorganisms or plants)
  • Native plantings
  • Community gardens
  • Market gardens (growing produce, herbs, etc. for sale)
  • Orchards and vineyards
  • Gateway entries to neighborhoods or streets
  • Passive Parks
  • Neighborhood connector trails and walking paths through adjacent parcels, side yard expansions or dividing and landscaping a parcel between two adjacent homeowners
  • Local Energy Production Facility (solar/wind/geothermal)

Grants were awarded in amounts up to $10,000 on smaller scale projects (1-2 vacant lots). Grant amounts over $10,000 but not more than $20,000 may be considered if the project is on 3 or more lots. Grant recipients must provide in-kind or cash match equal to 50% of the amount requested.
The Reimagining Cleveland Report and additional information may be found at (Video to come)

Cleveland, OH Housing Court

Cleveland’s “Housing Court has jurisdiction over criminal cases involving violations of the City’s housing, building, fire, zoning, health, waste collection, sidewalk and agriculture and air pollution code. The court also hears civil cases involving landlord/tenant disputes.” (Cleveland Housing Court, 2009)
Judge Pianka is the presiding and administrative judge of the Cleveland Municipals Court’s Housing Division. The Housing Court gives Cleveland a special tool to combat vacant and abandoned properties. First, the Court is able to assess fines to property owners for not maintaining their properties. This allows the court to hold individuals, companies, and banks responsible for maintaining their property to at least the code minimums. Second, the court can assist in transferring properties to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank or the City for rehabilitation or demolition. Most cities and counties have the ability to bring code enforcement violations to code enforcement boards and put a lien on the property but not assign fines and transfer property in the way that Cleveland’s Housing Court can.
Information on Cleveland’s Housing Court may be found at:
(Video to come)

Land Banks

Land banks are an important public policy tool for shrinking cities. They are allowed to acquire, assemble, temporarily manage, and dispose of vacant land for the purpose of stabilizing neighborhoods and encouraging the re-use or redevelopment of the property. A land bank cannot indefinitely hold land and its’ goals usually are to:

  • Acquire vacant land
  • Acquire vacant property though certain bank foreclosures, tax foreclosures, or donated property
  • Rehabilitate homes to reenter the market place
  • Demolish property and rehabilitate or assist in rehabilitating the site
  • Assemble land for future development

The Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, MI acquires an average of 1,000 abandoned properties each year and rehabilitates or demolishes the homes. The land bank has been the catalyst for increasing property values by more than $100 million.

For information visit:
Cuyahoga County Land Bank visit
Louisville, KY Landbank Authority
Flint, MI (Genesee County Land Bank)

Vacant Land and Abandoned Homes Inventory / Registration

A very important strategy for local governments is to understand how many properties are vacant and abandoned in their jurisdiction. Jurisdictions can create an inventory of vacant properties and require that property owners register their vacant property with the jurisdiction. Richmond, VA completed a vacant property study and requires certain vacant properties that are uninhabited for over 12 months to register and pay a $25 annual fee. The registry allows the jurisdiction to easily inspect vacant properties for code violations and provides for in-depth data analysis.
Richmond’s vacant property list may be found at

NEO CANDO (Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing)
NEO CANDO is a free and publicly accessible tool, which allows residents, business owners, government, community and economic development professionals, and the like to access social and economic data for 17 counties in Northeast Ohio or for specific neighborhoods within the Northeast Ohio region. NEO CANDO allows users to export data to excel spreadsheets and includes references maps and geographic based data and maps.

Data sources include:

  • Census
  • Crime data from the Cleveland Police Department
  • Vital statistics from the Ohio Department of Health
  • Property characteristics and sales information from the Cuyahoga County Auditor and Recorder
  • Public assistance data from Cuyahoga County Employment and Family Services
  • Juvenile delinquency data from the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court
  • Child maltreatment data from the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services
  • Mortgage lending data (HMDA) from the FFIEC
  • Enrollment and attendance from the Cleveland Municipal School District