"Recently, on Westmoreland Avenue, the potential danger of vacant properties became a reality and our community became part of the statistic when a vacant property caught fire. Fifty-five firefighters responded to the blaze and three were injured. Thankfully no one else was injured, but there was property damage to a nearby home. While the city has in place procedures to address code violations, they are not sufficient to address the myriad problems caused by vacant properties. Dealing with these properties takes a great deal of staff time and it can take years to rectify problems. Years that adversely impact residents and our quality of life in the city. To provide staff with another tool to address this issue the City Council is discussing the pros and cons of a vacant and blighted property tax. Establishing a vacant and blighted property tax to address this housing problem has become popular in many municipalities.
"What is a vacant and blighted property tax? This tax allows the city to establish a tax incentive program to encourage property owners to remediate or redevelop blighted properties. The property taxes are increased on blighted properties and can subsequently decrease once the property is remediated or redeveloped.
"What is a vacant property? Vacant property is vacant. Thus, a tax would NOT be levied on properties which are currently being used as a primary residence by the owner or renters.
"What is a vacant and blighted property? Such properties are both vacant and in such a state of disrepair that it affects other properties or safety or otherwise impacts the neighborhood.
"Where are their regional models for such programs? Washington, DC, Philadelphia and a number of other cities provide examples. An example of one such ordinance can be found here. Advantages: A blight tax could motivate property owners to stabilize and improve the blighted conditions on their properties or sell to others who are willing to do the work. It also allows the city to recover the public service costs associated with blighted properties. If a property is vacant or underutilized, the higher tax may encourage the owner to rent it in order to pay the extra taxes. These actions could subsequently increase the blighted property's value and that of nearby properties.
"Additionally, because blighted properties often demand a higher level of government services (e.g., public safety and code enforcement services) than other properties, the higher tax allows the city to recover some of the costs associated with this increased burden.
"Disadvantages: Depending on how a blight tax is put in place it could place a burden on low-income individuals, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and struggling businesses that have been unable to improve the blighted conditions due to economic circumstances or other reasons.
"Programs in place in TP to assist low-income homeowners: To ensure our policy would not burden low-income or fixed income individuals we need to carefully craft the program as well as explore additional partnerships with organizations that help individuals maintain their homes. One example is the city's partnership with Rebuilding Together Montgomery County, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which utilizes the skills of community volunteers, works in partnership with the community to address the needs of low-income homeowners by providing home repairs that address safety, accessibility, energy efficiency and basic needs. "
Vacant Properties The True Costs to Communities
Connecticut OLR Research Report: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/rpt/2013-R-0335.htm