News Release: Faculty Experts, Finance and Economics, Law

Mar. 18,  2010

Emory Law Professor's Vacant Properties Project Goes National

Emory Law Professor Frank S. Alexander discusses the mortgage foreclosure crisis and how it is affecting neighborhoods.

Emory University School of Law professor Frank S. Alexander is taking his municipal and state-level affordable housing and community development work to the national stage as part of the Center for Community Progress, a new, not-for-profit organization charged with reforming vacant and abandoned property policies throughout the country.

Alexander is serving as general counsel and director of policy and research for the Center for Community Progress, which is based in Flint, Mich., and has an office in Washington, D.C. He will maintain his professional responsibilities with Emory Law and Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR), where he serves as founding director. Daniel T. Kildee, a long-term colleague of Alexander's, has left his elected post as treasurer of Genesee County, Mich., to serve as the new organization's president.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ford Foundation together have made more than $1 million in grants for the organization; both foundations anticipate providing additional support in the future.  Flint has become an important "urban laboratory" for many of the concepts developed by Alexander, Kildee and others involved in the new center. They will promote its efforts in part through a descriptive tagline: "Turning Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places."

"Our goal is to create a new model of holistic revitalization in the nation's communities and reverse the abandonment that has escalated with the current economic crisis," says Alexander, who has been working to revitalize local communities as part of his two decade-long CSLR project on "Affordable Housing and Community Development." The grant provides new opportunities for Alexander to expand his research and work in this area.

"Frank embodies the best in American higher education," says Emory Law Dean David F. Partlett. "He's an outstanding scholar and teacher, who, at the same time, is driven by a deep social commitment. He gives tirelessly back to the community, at home and across the country. I'm honored he offers these attributes to our school, and I applaud this new opportunity to be a champion on the national stage in the crucial task of stabilizing and restoring neighborhoods and communities throughout the United States."

Three Strategies

 The Center for Community Progress will take a three-pronged approach to addressing the problem. First, it will usher into local, state and federal land usage laws new systems of land revitalization, facilitated by the prevention, acquisition and reuse of vacant and abandoned properties. The central feature of such work is the land bank, a governmental entity that acquires vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties and converts them into productive use. Second, it will provide technical assistance to communities as they undertake these efforts. Third, the center will support and conduct research related to unlocking the value of vacant and abandoned properties.

An emerging, additional opportunity is for the center to guide local communities on how to access and utilize the $6 billion provided by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Alexander has been a central figure in land revitalization policymaking since he founded CSLR's Affordable Housing and Community Development Project in 1987. Under this project umbrella, he has served federal, state and municipal lawmakers and institutions, advising, crafting and developing new legislation.

"For me, where law and religion lead is the call to respond in service to those who are facing really tough issues," says Alexander, "and to do so with all of the resources of legal and religious traditions."

The Center for the Study of Law and Religion is home to world-class scholars and forums on the religious foundations of law, politics, and society. It offers first-rank expertise on how the teachings and practices of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have shaped and can continue to transform the fundamental ideas and institutions of our public and private lives. The scholarship of CSLR faculty provides the latest perspectives, while its conferences and public forums foster reasoned and robust public debate.

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