An ordinance that will charge owners of vacant houses additional fees was passed by the City Council on June 14 and is likely to be signed into law by the mayor.
Council President Jack Young introduced the Non-Owner-Occupied Dwellings and Vacant Structures Bill on May 24 to generate more than $1 million in new revenue. For the first time, owners of vacant properties are on their way to paying a registration fee to the city.
Young said the dilapidated buildings serve as daily, visible reminders of revenue the city has lost. “The time has come for the owners of these vacant and unsafe properties that litter our city to get their act together and do their part,” he said in a statement. “They will no longer receive a free pass for the burden they have inflicted on our residents and our city’s overall image.”
Owners of the homes currently pay $35 annually as a regular fee but no vacant housing fee.
The bill states that homeowners of vacant residential houses will be required to register their buildings with the city and pay a $100 registration fee and owners of vacant commercial or industrial properties would be required to pay a registration fee of $250.
Vacant multi-family buildings would face a $500 fine for each unit for failing to properly register. Late fees will be imposed for owners who do not properly register their properties. “The finance department said there are 6,750 registered vacant properties in the city,” said Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young. “I think there are probably more.”
The city estimates $1 million of revenue based on the number of currently registered vacant houses, and is working to determine which vacant houses are not registered to figure out how to charge those property owners.
“This is amending the existing law on the books to try to get money from people who are just sitting on their property,” Davis said. “Hopefully that would incentivize people to bring their property up to code so families can move into them.”