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What is the Cost of a Vacant Building?

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | April 27, 2021

“It’s not hurting anything.”
“I can do whatever I want with whatever I own.”
“I inherited it, and I’m really not in a hurry to let it go.”
“It’s got sentimental value.”
“For the right price (that I won’t provide) I may entertain an offer.”
“It used to give me income, but I don’t know what to do with it now so I’m just not doing anything.”
These and more are the responses we get concerning vacant properties. Whether residential, commercial, or part of a mixed use building, vacancies have a negative impact on communities. Maximizing the highest use of properties strengthens the tax base, creates jobs, supports other area businesses, and supports quality infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, city/county services).
During the recent National Main Street conference, we had the opportunity to listen to several national speakers address issues that concern community and small business development. The information and images in this article were gleaned from those presentations.

Encouraging adaptive reuse of existing structures and the full utilization of commercial properties is critically important, and now there is an easy calculator that people can use to calculate the yearly cost of a vacant property for a community. CLICK HERE. The linked calculator was developed by noted economist Donovan Rypkema, and is based on years of reviewed research. Simply type in the yearly rental cost of a building in the yellow cell in the upper left corner, and the rest of the remaining cells will populate based on the prevailing national data for the business type.
Additional studies confirm the methodology behind the vacant property analysis, and although the calculators are based on commercial properties, a similar methodology can be used for residential properties or unused portions of commercial properties. CLICK HERE for more studies about the cost of vacant properties in rural communities.

So, what can be done to prevent citizens of this area from continually incurring these costs? Residential vacant property and vacant lot maps that are readily available to the public can enhance development opportunities. Design standards can help maintain quality construction and enhance the neighborhood fabric. The enforcement of Chronically Vacant Property Ordinances on the City level can encourage property transition, code enforcement, and enact fines that increase over time for long term vacancies. This is a problem with several solutions, and those solutions can reduce the community costs associated with vacant buildings.
Chronically vacant properties, for whatever reason they are vacant, have a negative impact on communities. If we want to develop in a way that generates efficiency for our infrastructure, supports our tax base, encourages upkeep of our existing developed areas, and maintains value in existing neighborhoods, our efforts should start with vacant and underutilized developed properties.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.