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The Vacancy Collaborative Newsletter
Welcome to the first installment of the Vacancy Collaborative newsletter! We'll be sending regular communications as we get up and running. 

What is the Vacancy Collaborative?
The Vacancy Collaborative (VC) is a coalition of partners committed to the reduction of vacant property as a top priority in St. Louis. Reducing the negative impact of vacancy is a complex puzzle that requires coordination to achieve a shared vision.
 
The VC is not a stand-alone entity, but a coalition of community representatives, private and non-profit stakeholders, and city agencies. The VC helps to coordinate existing vacancy efforts under one umbrella and encourages the public and private sectors to work together toward solutions in a comprehensive and coordinated way.

To be successful, this collaboration needs a variety of perspectives working together to continue to make St. Louis city a better place to call home.

We need your participation too! Read on for more information and ways to get involved.
 
Feedback from the Vacancy Collaborative Launch
At the Vacancy Collaborative launch last month, nearly 200 people gathered to share priorities for addressing vacancy. We received over 500 contributions on how to prioritize efforts as well as connections to other organizations already involved or interested in this work. Thank you to everyone who participated at the event, and also to those who couldn't make it, but have reached out to stay involved.
 
  Photos by Chuck Ramsay for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. Click here to learn more about Legal Services' Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative. 

At the event, we introduced six vacancy issue areas to frame discussion. We asked participants to identify priorities within each of these issue areas and to select the areas in which they wanted to stay involved. The chart below summarizes how each issue area ranked in terms of interest.
 

Read the Full Report
Key findings (and the full responses) for each of these issue areas are detailed in the summary report. To see the entire report, click here

 
Get Involved in a Working Group!
Want to participate in a working group? We're ready to set up initial meetings for the top two issue areas by interest from the launch event. 
  • Interested in Reinvestment and Reuse? Fill out this poll for your availability for the first meeting of a Reinvestment and Reuse working group.
  • Interested in Vacancy Prevention? Fill out this poll for your availability for the first meeting of a Vacancy Prevention working group.
At both meetings we will discuss the priorities generated from feedback at the launch and begin to identify next steps and short term goals. It is likely that each group will identify multiple projects and goals to work towards. If you can't make it to any of the meeting options in the polls above, but want to stay involved, email Tara Aubuchon at tara@communitybuildersstl.org. 

In addition, two working groups are underway or forming, but always welcome new participants.
  • The Vacancy Data Working Group meets the third Tuesday of every month from 4:30-6:00 pm. Meetings are downtown at T-REX, 911 Washington Avenue. No need to RSVP, but if you have questions, contact Laura Ginn at ginnl@stlouis-mo.gov for more information.
  • The Anti-Displacement and Neighborhood Planning Working Group is currently forming, and its first meeting will be on Monday, September 24 at 6:00 pm, location to be determined. Contact Matt Ampleman at matt.ampleman@gmail.com to get involved. 
Interested in Stabilization, Maintenance, and Demolition or Marketing and Education? Stay tuned! We'll be setting up initial discussions for these issue areas soon.
 
Website Updates
The STL vacancy website continues to evolve. It's now a single source of information on the VC, the Vacant Properties Portal, and a Demolition Tracker to provide information and updates about local vacancy efforts. Head over to www.stlvacancy.com and check it out! This website will change a lot over the next several months as we add more features and share more stories on the VC and other organizations' efforts to tackle vacancy. Consider joining the Vacancy Data Working Group (information above) if you would like to be involved in shaping this site and its content.

The Vacant Properties Portal aggregates 12 different city datasets in one public place. It is currently in Beta stage as the Vacancy Data Working Group refines methods, incorporates feedback from the launch event, and works to improve map speed and functionality. You can expect an update to the data and map by the end of September!



The Demolition Tracker provides information on in-progress, complete, and upcoming demolitions including the contractor hired to do the work, the status of the project, and other information. 

Community News & Events
Save the date!
On October 16th, from 12:00-5:00 pm, the St. Louis Association of Community Organizations and other local partners will host a vacancy symposium at Harris-Stowe State University (Professional Development Auditorium in the Early Childhood Center, Room 100). This free event will feature local academics, practitioners, and a national expert on vacancy, Alan Mallach, FAICP, to discuss his new book, The Divided City, and St. Louis' approach to vacant properties. 


Updates and Information on Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri's Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative (NVI) handles four main types of cases relating to vacancy:
  • Prevention. Staff and volunteer attorneys help low-income residents (up to 300% of poverty) with title issues and senior homeowners (over sixty) leave their homes to their loved ones through transfer-on-death (beneficiary) deeds. Since launching in April, assistance has been provided to more than forty individuals. The next beneficiary deed workshop is on September 22nd. Click here for more information and to RSVP.
  • Title Clearance. Staff attorneys can represent nonprofit organizations to clear land titles for projects dedicated to affordable housing.
  • Problem Properties. Attorneys are available to represent neighborhood associations to file lawsuits against the owners of vacant, run-down properties to force them to sell or repair the property. Currently several cases are underway.
  • Community Assistance. Lawyers and volunteers provide assistance to community groups about the legal tools available to prevent and reduce vacancy and to assist them with the legal organization and nonprofit incorporation.
For more information on NVI and to RSVP for upcoming clinics and events, visit: www.lsem.org


Interested in a reading/discussion group focused on addressing vacancy?
We're putting together a group to gather and discuss recent articles, research, and publications related to vacancy. If you're interested in joining, email tara@communitybuildersstl.org. 
Support
Funding to support coordination of the Vacancy Collaborative was provided, in part, by Missouri Foundation for Health, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis. 
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved.

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