Housing Complex

Nobody Knows All The Trouble Vacant Properties Cause

Ugly! Expensive!

Vacant properties are not a sexy topic, and the Government Accountability Office is no Danielle Steele, but the agency's recent report on the matter is a pretty interesting read for anybody who cares about how all those empty buildings came to be that way and their effect on local governments. Even though loan servicers are supposed to keep foreclosed properties in good shape for banks, cities often end up spending millions of dollars to adjudicate, maintain, and demolish properties. (The cost to neighborhoods of a suddenly-empty home, in terms of community disruption, decline in property values, and decreased safety, is harder to quantify.)

The story for D.C. is a little better. The percentage of our total housing stock that's vacant is slightly below the national average, and the total number of vacancies has increased only 13.2 percent—not bad considering the total growth in the city's housing stock, and the national vacancy growth rate of 43.8 percent. (See a map of where they are here.)

The city isn't sure exactly how much it spends taking care of those properties. According to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the vacant property unit has two full-time, dedicated inspectors and a $550,000 annual budget, which isn't broken out into the cost of abating nuisance properties. That's not huge, as the general fund goes, but it's a cost that I'd rather not have to pay.

  • crin

    A $500K budget to manage 2000 vacant properties is pathetic. Any mitigation work (replace roof to make sure its watertight, boarding up windows/doors, etc.) results in a lien, so DC eventually gets the money back when the property sells. But $500K only goes so far. You can probably only do like 20 serious mitigations. That leaves alot of problem properties out there for neighbors to live with.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    agreed with crin. this budget needs to be increased. more inspectors will pay for themselves.