City staff received approval last month from city commissioners to take a proactive approach when it comes to abandoned properties within city limits.
In short, the city’s Code Compliance Division can now start the foreclosure process on abandoned parcels to clear the property titles and get them back on the city’s tax rolls.
The move, commissioners and city staff say, will save the city money in the long run because the city is currently paying to keep the properties maintained via monthly lawn maintenance.
“These are properties we’re mowing regularly, and we have no idea who has abandoned the homes and the lots,” Litchet said.
Neighborhood and Development Services Director Tim Litchet told commissioners at an April 2 regular meeting that the move “is beneficial both to us and the taxpayers in the long run.”
Litchet proposed the city foreclose on lots that have one or more of the following characteristics:
• The properties are vacant lots or have homes that are vacant.
• There is an indication in the public records that a bank has dropped or ceased its foreclosure action.
• It’s discovered the owner of the property is deceased and no family member has taken control of the property or attempted to open an estate.
• The city is performing ongoing maintenance of the property.
Litchet proposes that if the city is successful in acquiring nine of the properties that meet one or all of the above criteria, the city will dispose of the properties by first offering them to non-profit companies in the area, with provisions they construct new homes or rehabilitate existing homes. If non-profit partners aren’t interested in the properties, staff plans to see if adjacent neighbors are interested in the properties. If no interest is garnered, the city would clean the parcels and make plans to sell them.
Assistant city attorney Mike Connolly said the process of acquiring the properties is time-consuming.
“The toughest part is trying to find heirs of deceased property owners that might be interested in the property,” Connolly said. “Any and all avenues to reach heirs must be exhausted before we can acquire the property.”
City attorney Robert Fournier told the Pelican Press the city received authorization to obtain properties meeting the criteria without having to get permission from the commission each time they need to gain ownership and clean up an abandoned property.
Commissioners unanimously approved the new staff recommendation. Commissioner Willie Shaw urged staff to make sure non-profits and those already qualified for affordable housing properties have first priority for the parcels.
Charles Morris, a homeowner on Gillespie Avenue, told commissioners he supports the recommendations because he’s been trying to acquire an abandoned property on his street for years — to no avail.
“It’s been impossible to work with the bank because they don’t care about the property,” Morris said. “I applaud the city’s efforts to help clean up the lots.”
Commissioner Shannon Snyder also praised the recommendation.
“The banks have written so many loans during the housing boom, they don’t even know where the paperwork to these properties is anymore,” Snyder said. “It’s a problem we will have in this city and across the county for years. This is a good policy to help clean up the mess the banks helped create.”
City staff has deemed the following nine city parcels as abandoned properties they will seek to get back on the city’s tax rolls:
• 3010 N. Gillespie Ave.
• 1557 21st St.
• 2700 N. Orange Ave.
• 2303 Bahia Vista St.
• 908 Gillespie Ave.
• 2400 Pershing Ave.
• 211 W. Cornelius Circle
• 1726-1732 Eighth St.
• 3035 Leon Ave.