VP Article on the Effects Of Abandoned Housing

The Virginian-Pilot has a very good article on the effects of abandoned housing on the core cities of Hampton Roads, Portsmouth and Norfolk.

If you live next to a vacant house, your property is worth about $7,500 less.

If a vacant house is on your block, the possibility of crime or fire occurring in your neighborhood doubles.

And if you live in Norfolk or Portsmouth, you’re much more likely to face these problems than anywhere else in Hampton Roads.

The article does mention what successes Wilmington, DE has had with a program they have enacted.

Wilmington, Del., has reduced its stock of 1,400 abandoned houses by 22 percent in the past four years through an aggressive program that fines owners annually, starting at $500 and increasing to more than $5,000 if they leave their houses empty for a decade.

The city has collected about $600,000 since 2003.

The fines reflect the costs associated with an abandoned property, from code inspections to police and fire calls, said Jeffrey Starkey, Wilmington’s commissioner of licenses and inspections.

“When you’re constantly being called out to the same property, it’s a tremendous amount of money,” he said. “The taxpayers are footing the bill for that.”

But because of the Dillon Rule, the best the cities in Virginia can do is charge $25 per year.

In Virginia, a program like Wilmington’s is currently impossible. State law prohibits cities from fining property owners and limits vacant housing registry fees to $25 a year – an amount set in 1993.

According to the article, Virginia First Cities Coalition, the lobbying group for 15 of Virginia’s most fiscally stressed older cities, has attempted to lobby for an increase in the fee.

Legislators don’t realize how much abandoned houses hurt communities, said Rachel Flynn, Richmond’s director of community development.

“Most of these legislators don’t live where there’s blight,” Flynn said. “It’s simple math: The votes aren’t there for the people who actually experience this and live in these neighborhoods.”

Ingram agreed.

“A lot of the legislators are from rural areas or from areas where it’s not a problem,” he said.

Neither Norfolk nor Portsmouth has a delegate on the committee.

Norfolk is trying to do something about the problem:

Norfolk also is restarting its vacant house registry. Over the past two years, employees have assembled a preliminary list, compiled from inspectors’ reports and neighbors’ complaints, of about 400 vacant properties that might qualify, said David Freeman, director of neighborhood preservation. Owners will be asked to register or say why they shouldn’t be on the list.

The city also is giving its worst properties special attention, said James Rogers, assistant to the city manager. Norfolk has demolished 31 nuisance properties and compelled the owners of 54 others to restore them.

Vice Mayor Anthony L. Burfoot supports this more intense approach.

“We’re not going to let communities decay like we have in the past,” he said.

The Wards Corner Partnership area, especially Denby Park, Monticello Village and Oakdale Farms, has and continues to experience problems with abandoned homes. We need to lobby for legislation in the General Assembly that will give municipalities the tools to address the abandoned housing problem.

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2 Responses to VP Article on the Effects Of Abandoned Housing

  1. Louis Eisenberg says:

    It is amazing how some legislators will espouse individual property rights at the expense of other individuals’ property rights. Will someone please explain to me why an individual has the right to let his or her property stay boarded up and effect my property’s and neighbors’ property values?

  2. Eric Heard says:

    Our legislators do not live in areas that are blighted by crime, drugs, vagrancy or boarded up dwellings. They are truely out of touch with our daily urban issues. . A legislator that resides in..let’s say..Lynchburg is not going to be feeling our pain.
    These dwellings should be penalized heavily. The houses or commercial property should be taken from the owner if taxes are not paid. Owners of commercial property should be fined if purposely left unrented for personal gain at the expense of the community. Norfolk desires to be a world class city and the potential is definitely there , but… investing in existing neighborhoods, promoting the light rail, cleaning up the blighted areas of the city are but a few of many things that have to be seriously considered by our elected officials.

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