Central Missouri Board of REALTORS® uses Transforming Neighborhoods Technical Assessment to help address vacant and abandoned properties

Monday, September 13, 2021

MARSHALL — When an email announcing the REALTOR® Party’s new Transforming Neighborhoods program landed in Michelle Pointer’s in-box, the Association Executive of the Central Missouri Board of REALTORS® brought it right to the attention of the mayor of the city of Marshall (population c.13,000.) With 20 percent of its residential properties vacant and about a dozen empty storefronts, Marshall was a prime candidate for the Technical Assessment offered by the program. A year later, having secured the grant and provided input for the assessment, the 99-member REALTOR® association is now helping the city to implement many of the recommendations that resulted from the report.

Although appropriate zoning and regulations existed in Marshall, properties ranging from eyesores to outright dangers plagued the city, which lacked the resources to fix them up or tear them down. Residents were leaving town for greener pastures.

“The mayor was so excited to learn about the program,” says Pointer. “It was exactly what Marshall needed.”

Gathering feedback from the mayor, the city administrator, and the fire chief, Pointer drafted a proposal that won a $20,000 grant for a Technical Assessment to Address Vacant and Abandoned Properties. It was conducted by the Center for Community Progress, a nonprofit organization working in partnership with the REALTOR® Party to inventory derelict properties within a community, analyze existing policies, and identify opportunities for improvement.

Pointer provided insights to the assessment team, as did nine city officials. The report was delivered in November 2020, and concluded with seven straightforward recommendations, which the stakeholders have taken to heart as a to-do list; the mayor created a task force to focus on the work at hand, and the effort has been full-swing throughout 2021.

“We went right to work on this forming a task force!” says Pointer. “There is so much political will to clean up the city of Marshall, and suddenly we had expert guidance and concrete directives. Some are simpler than others, but they’re all leading to a stronger and healthier community.”

So far, as a direct result of the assessment, the city has hired another code official, and put to use new software to track complaints about vacant, abandoned, and neglected properties. The REALTORS® have produced a brochure called ‘A Quality Neighborhood Starts with You,’ listing the most common code violations, maintenance suggestions, and phone numbers of resources from animal control to Habitat for Humanity. A community tool lending library is in the works, which will be stocked through the community and with a keen eye on yard sales. The city council passed a vacant structure ordinance, which will help utilize or get rid of vacant abandoned properties. The city is revising its code-violation notices to be less threatening and more friendly and encouraging. It is also working on offering publicly owned non-buildable lots to adjacent neighbors, saving itself the cost of maintenance. Pointer’s personal favorite among all the projects spawned by the Technical Assessment is a ‘Brush with Kindness’ program developed by the Marshall REALTORS®, which will match individual homeowners with skilled volunteer power to help with exterior projects.

“I was a single mother making $10,000 a year when my kids were little, and I remember how distressing it was to receive a code violation notice about my grass being too high,” she recalls. “I was lucky to have a mother I could call for help getting a lawnmower. But we need to reach the property owners who don’t have a safety net, or are otherwise overwhelmed by maintenance issues. Our members get that, and are ready to volunteer! As REALTORS®, they are inherently community-minded, and this effort reflects their values on all levels.”

To learn more about how the Central Missouri Board of REALTORS® is helping to eradicate blight in the town of Marshall, contact Association Executive Michelle Pointer at centralmoboard@yahoo.com or 660-631-1550.

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