I was reading Axios today and came across an article that describes the desperate conditions of some American neighborhoods.
Working with data collected by Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Kim Hart reports several problems:
In many post-industrial cities, vacancies are still at “epidemic levels.”
It’s not just an urban problem; rural areas and small towns can have a vacancy rate nearly twice as high as major metro areas.
Abandoned properties are a significant drain on municipalities because they are expensive to police, drag down the value of surrounding properties, and reduce tax revenues.
This crisis can go from bad to worse.
Hard-hit legacy cities are dealing with some degree of “hypervacancy.” When vacancies rise above about 20% of a community’s total properties, the number of vacant buildings may grow indefinitely and the market stops functioning, according to Alan Mallach of the Center for Community Progress.
Angie, a friend, recently told me about her brother’s work in a midwestern city.
He was living in Seattle when he decided to see what he could do to repair his home and native city. He called friends from high school and together they put to work.
Wouldn’t this make a great HGTV show? HGTV has enjoyed a big success covering renovation teams of several kinds. Fixer Upper, Good Bones, Flip or Flop, Rehab Addict, to name a few. Indeed, this is one of the real success stories of reality TV.
I couldn’t help wondering whether this might not be an idea for a new HGTV franchise. How about a show that features Millennials helping to rebuild a neighborhood? This would be a story about renovation in the literal sense. But it also renovation of community, neighborhood life, urban economies and the American city. Angie’s brother is all about this bigger picture.
And surely a bigger picture would be good for HGTV. There is something cozy and charming about their present narrow focus, individual homes, families, reno projects. But there is always a bigger picture, and this would open up story-telling vistas for HGTV.
Best of all, HGTV could help us reckon with a compelling social problem.
The Venn diagram in question. How can we make these circles intersect?
Call it City Salvage, or Reno, not demo, or Reno rescue.
I have reached out to “Angie’s brother” and if he is prepared to let me, I will give you more details in a subsequent post.
Thanks to Patrick Gorski for the image and to Pamela, my wife, for help with naming.