Community

Vacant and abandoned properties have different features. Some are empty, dilapidated structures. Others are overgrown plots. But all have an effect on the surrounding area.

New Directions Housing Corporation released its 17th annual Neighborhood Assessment Report this week, calling out a number of abandoned such properties that concern Louisville residents. But Kitty McKune, the nonprofit’s chief revitalization officer, said that this year, they wanted to get more people involved.

“I think we’re much better served as a community if we try to collaborate and come up with a coordinated, comprehensive plan to address this issue rather than everybody trying to be the Lone Ranger,” she said.

That’s why New Directions plans to dedicate all five of its Neighborhood Roundtable meetings this year to the topic.

McKune said more than 100 community members attended a Tuesday night meeting at the Chestnut St. YMCA, where she presented the report. City officials and attendees spoke about the issue and potential solutions.

Foreclosure is one avenue for dealing with vacant and abandoned properties, but McKune said it isn’t the final step. Properties need to be acquired and rehabilitated, and that requires capital, but it can be hard to get a bank loan in an area with vacant properties, she said.

New Directions may be looking at ways to fill that “appraisal gap,” as McKune called it. In the meantime, the group is also looking at tackling the issue from another angle: aesthetics.

One idea they’re exploring is decorative re-boarding. That means that when a building has a code violation, it may be boarded up in a more attractive way.

“Whether it’s through artwork or otherwise, you’re taking those boards and it doesn’t look like you’ve just boarded up a house,” McKune said. “With one proposal that we’ve seen, really from a distance you would think that they were regular windows.”

The first Neighborhood Roundtable meeting is slated to take place on March 18.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.