The city of Richmond has a zombie problem -- that is, zombie houses.
Those are houses left abandoned and in extreme states of disrepair for years, some stuffed full of refuse and crumbling, others completely gutted by fire. It's not easy to fix them because in many cases the owners have died or were forced to walk away due to foreclosure.
Richmond estimates that there are 1,000 such homes, each one costing the city $7,000 on average per year in cleanup and policing. They're also a major eyesore in otherwise well-maintained neighborhoods. Now the city has a plan to tackle the problem.
On Tuesday, the Richmond City Council voted to issue $3 million in social impact bonds to private investors. They're low-interest loans that will allow funders, including banks, to front the money for the city to purchase the houses and renovate or rebuild them. Once they sell, the investors get paid back and Richmond has more money to funnel into revitalizing more houses. The city can collect property taxes on the lived-in homes, and the property values in those neighborhoods rise.