Is Vacant Property Registration a Good Idea?

Vancant HouseI’m recycling this photo from a February posting on, ‘How often will my home get shown?’ as it is even more apropos to the Mayor’s Office proposal to require vacant property registration.  One September 13th, the Mayor’s Office posted a request for feedback on the proposed code.  While the problem is obvious and needs addressing, I’m not convinced that this is the way.

The news coverage that surround the announcement highlighted part of the issue.  Put teeth to existing code rather than enacting new code that doesn’t address the problem.  The worst offenders are not going to register regardless.  And, many of the worst offenders aren’t vacant as shown by the KOIN story interviewing an occupant that blamed the landlord.  This property, by the proposed code doesn’t need to be registered, does it?  ““Vacant Property” means Property that is not occupied by a human…”  A human answered the door.  It’s a Landlord/Tenant dispute according to the story.

I also question whether the program will be sustainable?  If we say that bank owned and foreclosed properties are going to be around for five years (I chose five years, it may be more or less) as a factor in Portland the revenue stream is going to dry up but you can guarantee trashed vacant (or occupied) houses will still exist.  Five years ago most people (including Realtors) could not tell you what a short sale or knew of someone that had been foreclosed on but there were lots of trashed houses.  The $30 fee for when a Notice of Default is filed and the $350 Vacant Property Registration for single family homes makes up the bulk revenue stream.  I don’t believe that the number of problem properties will decrease proportionally to the number of defaults and vacancies.  If there were 450 vacant homes (City estimate) in 2011 and 45 “problem” houses (my estimate) in 2011 and in 2015 if there are 100 vacant homes I expect there would still be 25-30 “problem” homes the City would be left to deal with a fraction of the revenue.  The City estimates a surplus of $100,000+ a year but that’s based on a revenue stream that hopefully isn’t sustainable.

I have to admit that I don’t get involved beyond voting at election time but this did make me take action.  I contacted and had a conversation with the City Attorney’s office and also an ongoing conversation with Sam Adam’s office.  The original proposal was to go before Council today but was postponed.  The email I received last week says to watch for an updated date and updated code proposal on www.mayorsamadams.com but I don’t see anything there at this time.  It will be interesting to see what the new proposal will look like.

One Comment on “Is Vacant Property Registration a Good Idea?

  1. Good article. I think in order for a vacant property registration ordinance to be effective, it has to be enforced. There is little hope a “worst offender” will voluntarily register their information if the ordinance is not enforced. They key to that is to select a Vacant Registry provider that can help in the enforcement of these ordinances.

    As far as the photo is concerned, if someone is indeed occupying the property, then there are much different (and bigger!) issues to address in that particular case.

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