Community meetings discuss how to purchase vacant, abandoned properties in Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Community Affairs and Housing Committee hosted the first in a series of meetings Monday to discuss vacant and abandoned properties in Louisville.

Metro Council approved more funding last year for different programs to help purchase, foreclose or demolish more abandoned properties. Leaders with Metro Louisville’s Vacant and Pubic Property Administration said they were able to streamline and ramp up their efforts with the extra funding to improve the safety and appearance of the city.

During Monday’s meeting, the VPPA director said there are 4,100 parcels in Metro Louisville considered vacant or abandoned properties. And of those, 2,700 include structures. The vast majority of these are in Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 15.

"In this particular council district, we have an unusually high number of vacant and abandoned properties," Metro Council President David James said. "So we wanted to go to where the problem is."

In order for a property to be considered vacant, there must be Codes and Regulations violations on it for at least a year.

Of those 4,100 vacant or abandoned properties, the city currently owns about 600. The rest are owned by private citizens or businesses.

VPPA started a new team of Metro departments last year to help tackle the city’s vacant and blighted property problems. If a property is not owned by the city, the Blighted Property Action Team tries other actions like cutting grass, boarding it up or legal action before pursuing demolition.

Since 2013, VPPA has increased its boarding and cleaning programs. The department has added about 100 properties to the grass-cutting list since last year.

The fiscal 2018 budget provided more funding for a new clear boarding project. Instead of boarding a home up with plywood, crews will use a durable clear plastic on the windows and doors, instead. From January through March, VPPA will target 150-180 homes in the Russell neighborhood. City leaders acknowledge this is not a permanent fix but believe it is a safer way to board the homes up while they attempt to pursue legal action.

The city also provided more funding for foreclosures last year. Since July 1, the city initiated 96 foreclosures, and 87 of those have gone to sale.

If all other options do not work, the city will consider demolishing the building. How bad the building ranks of a priority scale determines which buildings will be demolished first. Since July 1, 2017, VPPA demolished 57 houses.

The Landbank Authority is available to help a potential buyer figure out how to purchase city-owned property and what would be allowed on it. There are open houses every month to view the homes that are up for sale. Landbank launched new programs in 2017 to help community members either save a structure or demolish it for a deed. VPPA said these programs have helped save $300,000 in demolition costs in the last year by selling these properties quickly.

The public had the opportunity to ask questions about the programs available and review properties they might be interested in.

"It tells me they are very frustrated about the vacant and abandoned properties," James said about the community response. "And they want to come up with solutions. And they have ideas themselves. Government doesn't always do it right. So it helps us be able to hear where the frustrations are."

If you have any questions about a property, you can call 574-4200. This first meeting was at the Shawnee Golf Course Clubhouse. For information on the city’s programs and future public meetings, click here.

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