Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Danger of Blighted Buildings

Crossposted with In Shaw.

When I am done with the InShaw blog I hope to spend more time and energy on other projects, one being the Vacant Properties blog, because vacant and blighted residential buildings hurt all neighborhoods, gentrified, gentrifying and DC neighborhoods with so much blight that they are called blighted. A recent fire in S.E. DC which claimed the lives of two adults demonstrates the danger of having blighted properties, particularly in attached housing.

In the Washington Post article about the fire, resident Ericka Walker is quoted in saying that she tried to alert authorities, but "couldn't find anyone to help." The article says that the police and zoning (zoning? why zoning isn't this a DCRA issue?) have nothing about anyone saying anyone was living there full time. Full time was not defined, and I wonder how soon after Ms. Walker complained did anyone follow up and what entails following up.
DCFD has some video
When it is cold it is not unheard of in the history of this city that people get into vacant buildings. They may start fires to keep warm, and in the case of 1704 R St SE, there was cooking.

You can report vacant and blighted properties to DCRA but there doesn't to be any clear course of action when there is squatting. All the city seems to be able to do is tax the properties at a higher rate and reboard/secure the property. The owner of the property (unless this has changed) is the only one who can ask the police to remove tresspassers/ squatters, which is problematic when you have an absentee landlord who has essentially abandoned their property.