Nothing will rev up a city’s tax base faster than clearing blight and bringing abandoned properties back onto the tax rolls. The New York Times describes the problem:

In all, more than half of the nation’s 20 largest cities in 1950 have lost at least one-third of their populations. And since 2000, a number of cities, including Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Buffalo, have lost around 10 percent; Cleveland has lost more than 17 percent; and more than 25 percent of residents have left Detroit, whose bankruptcy declaration this summer has heightened anxiety in other postindustrial cities.

The result of this shrinkage, also called ‘ungrowth’ and ‘right sizing,’ has been compressed tax bases, increased crime and unemployment, tight municipal budgets and abandoned neighborhoods. The question is what to do with the urban ghost towns unlikely to be repopulated because of continued suburbanization and deindustrialization.

For muniland, this is a big question. Federal and state financial support for urban areas continues to shrink and communities have to find local solutions. Quietly and persistently, their efforts seem to be gaining momentum.

Although Detroit has received headlines for its plans to level entire neighborhoods, there are also efforts to stabilize some areas. From