Sunday, June 15, 2008

DCRA/OTC Property Survey Results - PSA 705

[This letter was passed on to me by email. --Ed.]

June 9, 2008

Linda Argo, Director
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Malcolm Avant, Manager of Vacant Properties
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Phillip Pugh, Housting Inspections Program Manager
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Roger Lovett, Ward 8 Inspections and Compliance Supervisor
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Stephen Cordi, Deputy Chief Financial Officer
Office of Tax & Revenue

Richie McKeithen, Director of Real Property Tax Administration
Office of Tax & Revenue

David Fitzgibbon, Chief Appraiser
Office of Tax & Revenue


Diane Groomes,Asst Chief of Police

Joel Maupin, Commander 7D

Robert Nixon, Community Outreach Specialist
US Attorney General's Office

Isha Foster Lee, Ward 8 Outreach and Service Specialist
Mayor'sOffice of Community Relations & Services

Benjamin C. Miller, Director of Audits and Compliance
DC Housing Authority

Good Evening,

Over the past 5 weeks our community organization, The Concerned Citizens of Oakwood Street has exchanged over 200 emails with members of the different city agencies (DCRA, MDP, MOE, USADC,AMBRA, NPR to name a few) to address issues in our community.

No issue is higher on our list than the issue of vacant and/or nuisance properties. These properties are not only an eyesore but are breeding crime in our community and unfortunately there does not seem to be a real plan in place to either abate or eliminate these properties.

After many,many, many written requests ; 23 properties (6 vacant and 17 residential) were inspected/reinspected by DCRA inspectors in May 2008. The results of those inspections are included on the attached spreadsheet.

CCOS took the results of those inspections and cross referenced them with the tax, sales and crime information for these properties posted on the DC website ( and have compiled the following results (see attached spreadsheet). Please note that the DCRA list of vacant properties is no longer accessible from the DCRA website. It appears the link has been removed. Prior to the link being removed CCOS visited the list and several of the Vacant Properties listed were classified as vacant in 2005/2006.

To put it mildly the results of the survey were very disappointing and illustrate serious failures to execute the most basic agency policies.


* Of the 6 vacant properties that were inspected only half (3) are currently classified as Tax 3 Class - Vacant

* Of the 3 vacant properties that are classified as Tax 3 Class - Vacant , the first time they have been taxed as Vacant is the first half of 2008 - although at least two of these properties have been vacant for almost 10 years and have been on the DCRA Vacant Property list for at least 2 years. This is very concerning as this represents lost revenue that could have been collected and used to benefit our community.

* 3 of the vacant properties have 4 OUTSTANDING liens from Clean City. 1 lien is from 1999, 2 liens are from 2000 and the latest lien is from 2003. If one assumes these liens represent property maintenance issues this clearly demonstrates a systematic failure in not only the enforcement of property laws but in the collection of fines and liens. There is also a special assessment from 2003 that has yet to be collected. The total amount from these outstanding liens totals $788.69. Residents have been complaining for months, in some cases years about these properties yet nothing happens. To see that the most recent fine was from 5 years ago and it has taken almost a decade and a lien still has not been collected demonstrates HUGE failures of the current system. Honest, hardworking citizens who keep their properties up to code AND pay their taxes feel robbed by the system. We feel victimized twice - once by the owners of these nuisance/vacant properties and again by city agencies who fail to follow through with correcting the issue.

* Based on the owner mailing addresses of these vacant properties 3 of the 6 owners have mailing addresses within DC, 3 have mailing addresses in Maryland.


* 1 property, a very large apartment complex could not be located in the tax assessment or sales database posted on the OTR website. The Public Housing website was down however CCOS members have checked in the past and been unable to locate this property on the public housing directory. This is known nuisance property were quality of life issues (graffiti, loitering, vandalism) and violent crimes occur regularly. MPD has done their part to monitor this area but there seems to be no support or proactive follow up from DCRA.

* Several properties are receiving either the Homestead or Senior Citizens Tax Deduction although it appears they do not qualify. Either because the property is a rental property or the owner no longer (or ever) resides at the property. In the case of one nuisance property which has been the site of much drug activity the owner has been deceased for over a year, yet the property is still receiving the Senior Citizens discount tax (taxes for the first part of 2008 were $196.40). This property also has a lien on it from WASA for $1,574.94 (please note these property is routinely without basic utilities - residents have been seen relieving themselves outside).

* There are UNCOLLECTED 3 "Clean City" liens, totalling $400 going back as far as 1995. Please note that according to the OTR website one of these properties currently owes Clean City $300 in liens yet has continued to receive tax credits from the city for 4 years - 3 of those years not having to pay property taxes at all. One would think that before any credits were issued that the liens would have to be paid. There is also a Nuisance tax for another property that was posted in 1993 that still has not been collected.

* There are several Water and Sewer liens. All of these properties are occupied and at least one with children. Has anyone checked to see if these homes have running water or utilities? The WASA liens alone total almost $2200

* Of the properties that have been identified as "drug houses" all but one appear to inhabited by Section 8 tenants. Once again the police are doing their part when they are called but it does not appear to be any follow up by the department handling Section 9 rentals. At least three of these drug houses contain small children. CFSA has been notified but it is unknown weather they have paid a visit. The children are still there and the drug dealing is still going on.

Please note that these figures were compiled by one lone citizen over the course of 5 hours from the website. If one person with limited access to data was able to pull together these figures there is no explanation for DCRA and the Office of Tax and Revenue not to be able to at least do the same. We are also a photograph of two vacant properties, 2816 2nd St SE and 450 Oakwood St SE (both have had the yards mowed by the city in the past 10 days).

We implore all of you (once again)to please take immediate action - none of us can afford not to!

Best regards,

Concerned Citizens of Oakwood Street

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

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