Louisville mayor pushes bills dealing with vacant, abandoned pro - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville mayor pushes bills dealing with vacant, abandoned properties

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A boarded house on S. Third Street in Louisville A boarded house on S. Third Street in Louisville
Mayor Greg Fischer Mayor Greg Fischer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's office hopes the Kentucky House will soon take up a pair of bills giving the city more power to deal with vacant and abandoned properties.

The bills, HB 219 and HB 279, would expand the authority of the city's Land Bank – an owner of last resort for abandoned property – and make it less expensive for Metro government to acquire unkempt houses and lots from absentee owners, among other changes.

Nearly identical versions of the bills passed the House during last year's legislative session, but there wasn't enough time to get them through the Senate, said Sara Massey, Fischer's director of intergovernmental affairs.

The current bills, having passed out of committee on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, await votes on the House floor, Massey said. Despite the short legislative session, she hopes the Senate will act on the bills this year.

Fischer's office has won a handful of other changes in state law since he started dealing with the vacant homes issue in 2011.

“This would be a major culmination of recommendations that have been a long time coming,” said Jeana Dunlap, assistant director of Metro government's Office of Vacant and Public Property Administration.

Metro government's land bank owns about 460 pieces of property – almost all of them vacant lots with no houses or buildings – are basically has no revenue, staff or budget, Dunlap said.

HB 219, sponsored by Louisville Reps. Joni Jenkins, Reggie Meeks and Steve Riggs, would allow the land bank to issue bonds to raise money for its operations and give it a few possible ways to generate money over time.

For example, the land bank could keep the proceeds of any sale of property, and it would receive a portion of the property taxes generated by former land bank lots for five years following their return to the government tax rolls.

HB 279 would allow the city, with Metro Council approval, to stop selling property tax liens in certain neighborhoods targeted for redevelopment, among other changes. It is sponsored by Jenkins and Riggs.

When homeowners don't pay their property taxes, investors can get a stake in the property by paying the overdue bills and getting a lien against the home. 

This provides taxing entities like Jefferson County Public Schools with money they otherwise would not have received from the delinquent homeowner. But, as Dunlap noted, it also makes dealing with an abandoned house more onerous because the investors are entitled to recoup their costs and interest – and their liens can't be wiped away like back-taxes owed to the city or state.

“It complicates things when there are third-party tax-lien holders involved. It adds somebody else in on the title, and we have to track them down and come to terms with them,” she said.

Here are the neighborhoods where Metro government might withhold the sale of tax debt:

Dunlap said the program would be limited to “small areas” and not whole neighborhoods or zip codes. And “at best” the city would withhold tax bills in only two of the 14 areas a year, she said.

City efforts to deal with vacant and abandoned properties are detailed here: http://vapstat.louisvilleky.gov/

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