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Alexander Advises Congress on Neighborhood Aid Bill

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Frank S. Alexander

By April L. Bogle and Elaine Justice
05/22/08

Emory Law Professor Frank S. Alexander testified before Congress May 22 on how federal funds could be targeted to neighborhoods most affected by rising rates of vacant and abandoned properties. The bill won passage in late July as part of a landmark $300 billion housing bill. His testimony, before a joint hearing of the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, focuses on which data best enable the federal government to target new funds to the neighborhoods most in need.

Alexander, an affordable housing expert and the founding director of the Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR), has played a significant role in advising Congress and state governments on the issues surrounding vacant and abandoned properties resulting from foreclosures. Today’s testimony focuses on H.R. 5818: Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2008, which would allocate $15 billion to state and local governments hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.  

“Once foreclosures have occurred, the costs of vacant houses are borne by the adjoining property owners, the neighbors down the street, the surrounding community, the schools, and the local governments,” said Alexander. “A vacant house drives down the value of adjoining property within one-half mile by 1-3 percent. In addition, it is quickly vandalized, which drops the value further, calls to police and fire departments increase, and property tax revenues decline.”

The bill proposes that the communities most affected acquire and convert foreclosed properties into new productive uses, including affordable housing.

Alexander's testimony

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