Thousands of homes and properties in Kansas City, Kan., are vacant, abandoned, blighted or delinquent in taxes, according to Unified Government officials.
A Neighborhood Housing Task Force met with the UG commissioners last week at City Hall and presented some goals aimed at solving some of the local housing problems.
According to UG officials, 6,400 properties in Wyandotte County are eligible for a tax sale at this time, and 2,150 properties are in the Land Bank. The 6,400 properties, including empty lots as well as buildings, are at least three years delinquent on paying taxes, according to officials.
The task force has been meeting for about six months and has developed some goals. It will bring back some strategies and solutions for UG approval in the future. The UG will decide in the future whether to expand code enforcement, change ordinances or allot more funding for code enforcement. An expansion of the Land Bank also was discussed. The UG also backs a change in state law that would allow faster changes to be made to take over blighted, vacant or delinquent properties.
Contract-for-deed properties were one of the task force’s concerns. According to community leaders, some renters have not realized they were signing contract-for-deed agreements that required them to make repairs to the properties. The eventual result is more vacant properties, according to neighborhood leaders.
The task force also listed problems with rental properties, some absentee landlords, some tenants and some homeowners. Sometimes homeowners aren’t able to make payments and just walk away from properties; other times, landlords are not keeping up properties, according to officials.
According to information from the task force, many blighted properties are deteriorating as the years go by, to the point where they are unsalvageable.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan, who is on the task force, said several groups were brought together on the task force, including neighborhood groups and City Hall offices including the Land Bank, Neighborhood Resource Center, Legal Department, Livable Neighborhoods and Police Department.
He said some of the task force’s goals include creating a clear path to gain control of abandoned properties, blighted properties or vacant land; reducing the time necessary to acquire control of those properties; developing mechanisms to transfer land or structures that have been acquired to developers for rehabilitation or reuse; creating incentives for developers to rehabilitate abandoned properties, blighted properties or vacant land; and developing strategies to sell rehabilitated properties.
A number of other goals were listed, including more education for tenants and landowners in several areas.
Already, code enforcement is adding two more staff members in 2013, and an attorney has been assigned to code enforcement, according to McKiernan.
Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-37th Dist., is working on a bill that would reduce the time that it takes to get control of a blighted property.
Not everyone agrees that the time needs to be reduced to allow a new group to take over a blighted property. At a legislative forum last month, State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., indicated that some residents support property rights of the owners. In a previous legislative session, some of the Wyandotte County delegation said they had an issue with the details of a proposed bill that would make it easier or faster to take over a blighted or vacant property.