How do you help a devastated neighborhood recover from blight? In New Orleans, Growing Home from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority has a Good Idea (capitalized just like Winnie the Pooh would).
Hurricane Katrina left many homes destroyed and neighborhoods with dwindling populations facing a scattered pile of overgrown vacant lots. Growing Home gives homeowners a grant for $10,000 off the price of the lot next door as long as they agree to improve it and plant a garden. Everybody wins. The homeowner has a double lot and a higher property value, the community has a lovely garden instead of blight, the city increases tax revenues.
New landowners can grow how they want to: some plant vegetable gardens, some flowers, some create play spaces for children in the neighborhood, and some even open up as community gardens. Improvements encouraged by the organization include native trees, lot water meters, rain barrels, compost piles, and fences.
If this sounds good, Growing Home has a page full of resources not only for participants in their program, but also those who want to start up programs in other cities.