Buildings that are unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work in because of building code violations, dilapidation, deterioration are considered blighted. These properties usually have been abandoned by the property owner and bring down property values and hurt our neighborhoods. In 2019, the City completed an evaluation of what we would like to see in an inventory of blighted properties. In order to compile this data, the City contracted with a company to perform an assessment on the condition of properties within the City. This assessment will be phased and will be conducted Ward by Ward. Only an exterior inspection will be performed for this assessment. In addition to this exterior inspection, the Community & Economic Development Administrator will review records for utility shut-offs, delinquent taxes, condemnations, liens and reoccurring violations, which are a typical indicator of blight. All properties will be rated Excellent, Good or Poor. The City will utilize grant monies for the first phase of this assessment, which started in 2020.
The City also established a land bank, administered by the Redevelopment Authority. A land bank is used to acquire vacant and abandoned properties that go to judicial tax claim sales, keeping them out of the hands of speculators and landlords who do not make significant improvements to them. The land bank would have the right of first refusal for any property that goes to judicial sale. Funding for the land bank will require sharing half of the property tax revenue for the first 5 years after a land bank has returned the property to the tax rolls. The land bank will be able to target properties to ensure they receive the investment they need to go from blight to bright. This also will allow us to combat the trend of declining home ownership.
Another tool we would like to add to our toolbox is to establish a vacant property registration program in the City. We can use the database as an effective resource to promote the responsible maintenance of the properties, and to allow for prompt contact with owners or managers from police, fire, emergency, and inspection departments when issues or emergencies develop. We have not been able to establish this program because we did not have enough staff to effectively manage an additional program. Since hiring a Code Enforcement Supervisor to help with the organization of the division, I believe we will be able to make this request before City Council in 2021 or 2022.