April 13, 2010; The Tennessean | Experts say that houses left vacant after foreclosure contribute to a further drop in a neighborhood’s property value, not to mention depressing prices overall because of the unsold inventory. Still, an innovative plan by the city of Murfreessboro, Tenn., to use federal grants to buy and repair vacated homes and then turn them over to charities to rent is running into some resistance.

According to the Tennessean, despite assurances from the nonprofits who will be finding people to live in these reclaimed homes, residents are fearful about who their new neighbors will be. So far the city has used some of $1.2 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds to buy seven houses, which have been turned over to five charities. The new landlords include a domestic violence program and another that helps people find housing and jobs.

When they take over these homes, charities have to abide by existing zoning regulations. That means they can’t turn them into group homes or shelters. Journey Home Executive Director Scott Foster said his nonprofit is careful about whom to rent their houses. Others say they also will take great effort to make sure new renters fit in well with children, senior citizens and other residents in the neighborhood. Speaking about the even greater good this program is meant to accomplish, Murfreesboro Community Development Director John Callow said, “Would you rather live next door to a vacant house or one that has a family in it and is owned by somebody who is going to take care of the property?”—Bruce Trachtenberg