October 12, 2017
Urban Blight and Renewal
By: Jay A. Reich
While market forces are generally relied upon to stimulate investment and development in urban areas, there are circumstances where absentee property ownership or inefficient markets deter redevelopment by discouraging potential investors, plaguing cities with underdeveloped properties that blight the community. Sometimes this lack of investment also results in health and safety concerns, e.g., where abandoned buildings deteriorate or become unsanitary shelters for the homeless. Washington cities have statutory authority to address these conditions, though application of this authority poses legal and political challenges.
The purposes of this paper are to (1) explore the legal authority in Washington for cities to acquire blighted property for public and private economic development, and (2) discuss practical approaches to implementing this seldom used and sometimes controversial authority.