To understand blight, you really have to understand what it is and where it is, a Detroit native told attendees of a Macon blight conference Thursday.
Lauren Hood, community engagement manager for Loveland Technologies in Detroit, said the survey of 389,000 properties there was important for making decisions about that city’s many blighted properties.
Sometimes, blight strikes quickly, such as at a house that burned five months after it was surveyed the first time.
Hood’s own family home was blighted and looking abandoned just a year after her parents sold it, Hood said. The fast speed of blight makes up-to-date data -- including pictures and a description of a property’s condition -- important to making decisions.
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“We knew we had some blight, but we didn’t know how bad it was or where it was,” Hood said at the blight meeting, which is sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Collaborative Journalism, which is made up of Mercer University’s journalism program, The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Detroit’s information sometimes helps determine which houses will be torn down, Hood said. Blight often has been described as difficult and costly to fix. Creating an inventory of blight has the same problems. In Detroit, however, that effort was aided by a billionaire.
In Macon, a blight mapping effort may start in the next few weeks, said Andrew Haeg, entrepreneur in residence at the CCJ. Haeg said Mercer University professors may start driving down Macon streets to identify blighted properties, which could then be surveyed more in-depth later. By ignoring properties in good condition, Macon can inventory blight in a cheaper way, Haeg said. Funding comes through the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The conference falls on the heels of word this week that the Macon-Bibb County Commission is considering two resolutions to help deal with blight. One resolution calls for a comprehensive blight study across the county. The second asks the local government to consider a bond issue as a way of getting money to fight the problem.
Commissioners are expected to take up both issues Tuesday.
The blight conference also is connecting people. Tom Buttram, who oversees Macon’s code enforcement and building inspection operations, said the city has been evaluating blight through a rating system developed by Historic Macon. He said he wants to partner with the Mercer-based effort to ensure everyone is on the same page.
The conference is being held in Mercer’s Science and Engineering Building, and continues through Friday.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.