Law School's Community Development Clinic Creates Toolkit for Texas Communities to Combat Problem Properties

The Community Development Clinic at The University of Texas School of Law has released a report highlighting policies that Texas communities can use to combat problems created by abandoned and vacant properties.

The report, Texas Problem Properties Toolkit: A Resource to Help Texas Communities Address Problems Created by Vacant and Abandoned Properties, was developed in collaboration with Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources in Austin, a pro bono business law project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. The report is available as a PDF file on the clinic's Web site.

"In our work through the Community Development Clinic, we have found that these properties create dangerous living conditions for the residents and surrounding community," said Heather Way, director of the clinic and a 1996 graduate of the School of Law.

"For example, two children recently died in Houston as a result of hazardous conditions at an apartment complex," Way said. "These properties also breed dumping, drug activity and other crimes. This report will provide communities struggling with these conditions with some practical tools and new resources to create safer and stronger neighborhoods, and to build more vibrant and economically sustainable communities."

Clinic students and faculty spent two years examining best practices for addressing problem properties in Texas and around the United States by talking to experts, researching laws and policies, and conducting fieldwork in Dallas. Way said she and the students wrote the report for city leaders, neighborhood organizations and other stakeholders interested in eliminating the harms caused by vacant and abandoned properties.

Community Development Clinic students provide legal services needed to promote sustainable economic development in low-income communities, including job creation, affordable housing and asset-building strategies. The clinic has been involved in a series of recent projects related to improving the quality of life in distressed communities through initiatives such as vacant property reforms, affordable housing policy development and clear title assistance.

A copy of the toolkit is available online at (PDF).