Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment of 2016, Bill 21-0598

So here is a link to the committee report. I read half of the PDF file as I decided to skip the testimony. That's background and not the legislation.

If the goal is creating affordable housing, this surely won't do that. What it looks like it will do is maybe, just maybe get DCRA to create something so people could find out about vacant properties and better report such properties to the city. Maybe. Maybe not, we'll see. That's the only thing I liked about it, and even that part I'm not too hopeful about. The other stuff was more fees, or more of the same.

Mentioned an the background material was something about getting the fees so that they would not get absorbed in the cost of doing business...... Um, I don't think that's how it works. Example, properties where the over due  property taxes are higher than the market value of the property. There's a word for properties with no room for profit, 'abandoned' or 'underwater.' Neither of those types of properties tend to lead to affordable housing unless the government steps in gains the property through eminent domain, hold on for too many years, have a neighborhood suffer through a zillion RFPs maybe a PUD or two, lotsa tax credits, and in 10-20 years you may get subsidized housing. The formerly vacant residential properties featured on this blog do not fall under the heading of "affordable".

509 O St NWAnother thing mentioned in the background material were the exemptions, but not so much in the legislation. A significant residential project can take a year, depending on how you count the start of it . Anyone who has had a kitchen remodeled or the like knows these things, once you get a contractor who returns your phone calls, takes 2-3 times longer than the contractor says. It seems you still only get a year. Probate was also mentioned, but not addressed. So this does nothing about places like 509 O Street NW, which is as far as I know, still in legal limbo between the owner and the bank. Now it will be taxed beyond 'worth it' and still in legal limbo. Same goes for properties passed to bickering relatives or to be divided by spiteful divorcing spouses.

What I found more irritating was the press on it. According to the Washington City Paper "It will soon become harder for landlords to neglect vacant or blighted properties under a bill the D.C. Council unanimously passed today." Nope. For one 'landlord' was used incorrectly, if it is vacant or blighted it is not being rented and thus the owner is not being a landlord, just an owner. Since this is just increasing fees and decreasing the construction exemption I see no change for properties owned by abandoned LLCs or dead people. 

What would have been awesome with a supersized cup of amazing would have been legislation of how long DC Government owned buildings could sit around abandoned, blighted and vacant. Or apply these same requirements to the agency that holds several blighted residential and commercial  preterites and have the vacant tax rate come out of their budgets and credited to the owners who live adjacent to them, year after year. I guess I want real leadership and less 'do as I say not as I do.'

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