Roanoke plans to transform vacant abandoned homes into affordable housing

Total Action for Progress will administer the city's landbank program

ROANOKE, Va. – The City of Roanoke is working to help local neighborhoods that need a little extra boost. City Council members said Total Action for Progress will manage the city's new land bank program. It converts blighted property into affordable housing.

TAP said it's excited to be the keeper of this program. The city routinely takes in rundown and sometimes abandoned homes because of unpaid taxes, among other things. Instead of listing them for sale, now the city can give the property to TAP and the nonprofit will help make the blighted homes a thing of the past.

Rundown homes throughout Roanoke are a low spot for a city with so much pride. It's why leaders want to transform blight into beauty, one house at a time.

"Our resources are limited so having this program where the city gives us those properties that we can put back online, we're not spending the resources to buy the properties but we're putting that money into the property to rehab them," TAP Financial Services Vice President Curtis Thompson said.

The new land bank program allows the city to give derelict property to TAP so they can transform abandoned homes into affordable homes. Councilwoman Michelle Davis and former Councilman John Garland championed the idea, which has been successful in a few other cities across Virginia.

"There are so many properties, especially in the West End where I live, that the owner will keep the property up to code but it's vacant, and we don't have any availability to do anything about those properties," Davis said.

The program can't do a whole lot for those homes, but it can help prevent the situation from happening in the future. When the city gets property because of unpaid taxes or for other reasons, they can transfer it to TAP instead of selling it at auction.

"We have 42,000 parcels in the city, so I would think that the number of parcels that could be eligible or property owners may want to consider disposing or having a land bank considered could be in the hundreds at least," Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend said.

When houses go to tax auction, new owners may not have the neighborhood's best interest at heart. But with TAP, the city knows the land will be put to its best use, and they hope pride follows.

"It helps everybody. It helps the city, it helps the neighborhood, it just strengthens the neighborhood when we have a house that's again safe and affordable and it shows by having this program that the city cares," Thompson said.

TAP doesn't know yet how many houses they're going to be able to flip with their partners, but they do know they're excited to get to work and prove this program can be successful in Roanoke.