Dear PoP – Why Let Slumlords off the Hook?

DSCN3714, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

In the midst of the budget cuts and tax raises, one tax is quietly being decreased: the one that levies a 10% tax on owners of vacant property. In my opinion, it has actually been very effective in getting longtime slumlords to sell or fix vacant and dilapidated property. While it’s impossible to prove such causation, I think we’ve seen enough benefits to continue supporting the heightened rate, particularly when it’s bringing in millions of dollars to the coffers are a time when our city needs it most. So why are they looking to raise just about every tax conceivable, yet let slumlords off the hook?”

What do you guys think – is it a mistake to lower the tax on vacant property?

64 Comment

  • As an local resident, I want the 10% rate to remain. It forces owners to sell or rehab.

    As an American, I don’t think anyone should be forced to do anything with their property. These sorts of laws go against property rights. If they want to leave it empty or demolish it, they whould be allowed to do what they please. I don’t want the US to be a place where only the govt really ows the land and we just ‘rent’ it via high property taxes.

  • I think the viewpoint of the city council is that for the moment at least, landowners are pretty much stuck with what they’ve got. Getting funding for renovation, rehabilitation, or restoration in this economy is impossible. As is finding a buyer that is interested in a property that needs work.

    I can see that viewpoint but I don’t want to see properties languish either. If only what a landowner chooses to do with their land affected no one but themselves, I wouldn’t care. But unfortunately what one property owner does with their land does affect landowners and the community around them.

    I’d like to see a compromise–a sliding scale of tax. Say, 5% for the first 2 years a property sits vacant, then 8% for another 2 years, 10% for anything more than 4-6 years, and so on. This would give landowners the ability to sit out bad economic times (just about every recession in history has recovered in 2 years) while still providing the motivation to improve the property or allow someone else to do so.

  • anonymous: i like your sliding scale idea. problem is, taking the example of the property in the picture, the owners have hung onto this property in its current state for ages–not just two years.
    i think they should have the choice either to auction it off asap OR to accept the sliding scale.

  • Vacant properties shouldn’t be taxed. They should be eminent domained, levelled, and the lot sold. Hell, a community garden would be better than a vacant eyesore that neighbors are stuck with for decades. Even the socalled delinquent tax auctions only end with owners paying off the tax owed then sitting on the property for years AGAIN.

    If you can’t afford to maintain a property, you can’t afford the property. Period.

  • If you can’t afford the 10 percent tax, then the property should be given back to the government, sold to the highest bidder, and developed by someone who can use it.

    It serves no one in the community to have a vacant property.

    I also think we need a campaign to identify properties that are vacant. I can point to at least 3 houses on my BLOCK in which no one is living but that they try to make look like someone is living there.

  • monkey: sorry, but automatic demolition for vacant properties? that’s extreme and ridiculous, and you know it.

    i like the sliding scale idea, but, as m.e. says, it would be difficult to determine how to implement regarding properties that have already been vacant for years.

    the fact is that the tax rate was 5%, and buildings weren’t being fixed up. the city raised it to 10% and we started seeing action on a lot of properties. sure, some owners complained that it was hurting them, but that was kind of the point. they were hurting their neighbors by neglecting the neighborhoods for so long. i think the city should have at least tried moving the tax to 7.5% as a compromise if the 10% rate was truly problematic.

  • Can someone tell me where this photo was taken? Thanks.

  • im a little confused as to why they are lowering it. the 10% rate was generally considered a success. the amount of activity on vacant properties in my immediate area surged after the new tax rate went into effect. some of the properties sold, others were rented out and others were at least spruced up a bit in hopes of a sale.

    the issues of owners being unable to sell their properties in this market is a bit of a red herring. the ones who ask for obscenely high prices don’t sell, the ones who price to the market do. period. furthermore, several owners have no intention of selling.

    the house 3 doors down from me is vacant and infested with pigeons and rodents. the owner, who lives in the burbs now, comes by once every couple months to check on the place. after beating around the bush a few times that i saw her, i finally asked bluntly why she didn’t just fix up the place and sell or rent it out and she just shrugged and said she’s not sure what she wants to do with it. 4 years later i’m still living next to a pigeon coop that is dropping in value day by day. what can you do in these situations

  • it def has been effective. a long time vacant property on woodley place in woodley park no less. was vacant nearly 3 decades and sold last year. I think it should be raised to 12 percent.

  • PLEASE email or call your city council member and let them know that you are against lowering the vacant tax rate.

    This tax is needed to encourage absent property-owners to either use their property or sell it to someone who will use it. There’s no reason we should change our laws to make it easier for people to just let properties sit empty. Who introduced this bill? Who is pushing for the change in tax rate? DCUSA? Owners who are having trouble renting or selling need to be more realistic and sell their properties if they are having trouble. The 10 percent tax rate has been a grand success. Have you walked through Columbia Heights lately? There’s so much development! Please don’t make it easier for people to let properties sit vacant. If anything, I think the city should be doing more to enforce this law.

    Bottom-line: the citizens of DC are against a decrease in this tax, especially in a time of fiscal crisis.

    Vote NO on a decrease in vacant property tax.

  • POP: Can you find out who’s behind this bill? Is it DCUSA? Other big developers? Can you find out if any money has changed hands? This bill sounds ripe with CORRUPTION. Let’s get to the bottom of this!

  • I don’t think it should be lowered. Why. Just because the owners whined?

    Many of these places are long term abandoned properties not something that has gone on for a couple of years. I am sure the reasons vary but the fact that they aren’t developed, used, etc. just means the owners can’t afford to do it or don’t want to do it – neither of which is a good excuse for leaving property abandoned. There is one house on the Hill on C Street SE between 8th and 9th that has sat vacant since I moved to the Hill in 1994 (siblings squabbling over an inheritance I think). This place was in an ideal location and just because of the “owners” issues, they missed selling it for a big profit to someone who would be paying full property taxes and it will likely sit there for a few more years. They don’t want to solve the problem so the place just sits.

    I am not a big fan of government or homeowners associations telling people what they can/can’t do with their houses but I don’t feel I should subsidize this behavior – especially when there are alternatives and even if they don’t like the alternatives (life is full of sucky choices).

  • Vote NO on a decrease in vacant property tax! Do it!

  • PLEASE email Jim Graham and tell him to VOTE NO on this:

    Jim Graham ; Jim Graham ;

  • I like the progressive idea, unfortunately the Office of Real Property would have to double in size to handle such a drastic change, eliminating any additional revenue yielded from the change. Anyone have any idea how much vacant property tax is actually collected? I think you can appeal it for a long time, and straddle the vacant prop status.

    There should be more outrage against the other tax increases and inefficient gov’t in general… what did DC do with all the transfer tax it collected from the boom times… government should have hefty surpluses to ride out economic downturns, instead they punish the producers even more.

    If you want to raise revenues, increase the tax base not the tax rates. Lower the DC tax rate on the first $100k of income to 4% would create incentives for the VA/MD taxpayers to move into the city, increasing collection of transfer tax, sales tax, dmv fees, re taxes…

  • Here’s the entire list of names and email addresses of the DC Council.

  • New Shaw Neighbor, I think that is the rear of the Shiloh properties on 9th.

    Count me among those who think the tax reduction is weird. But the DC Council isn’t exactly staffed by Mensa.

  • @IMGoph – In the best of all possible worlds, these properties would be rehabbed and put back on the market. But these properties have been abandoned, some as long ago as the ’68 riots, most during the suburban flight of the 1970s. Do they need to sit around another half-century before something is done with them? The owners have had enough time to fix them and the old canard of “we want to work with the community to build low-income housing” has worn thin. If they didn’t fix them when the economy was going gangbusters, what chance have they during a recession? These are predominately absentee landlords who don’t live in DC, are paying a pittance to keep “certain people” from buying them, and think the neighborhood is their own private doubleparking lot. They have no intention of ever fixing them and the Council has no intention of raising the tax.

    If the whole of SW can be eminent domained to clear out slums, they can do the same piecemeal in Ward 1, and send the slumlords the bill.

  • I am sympathetic that the tax as it is currently implemented might be unfair in some situations.

    I would think this is very easy to fix using a sliding scale as some have suggested, or have a cutoff at which a higher tax rate applies. For example, a property which has been identified as vacant for 5 years or more would be subject.

    Anyone who’s been sitting on a property for that long needs to get rid of it or get off their duff. Being unable to afford to renovate something that you aren’t even living in is not a good enough reason to allow these blights to languish. If you’ve had it for a number of years and nothing’s happened, it’s obvious nothing is ever going to happen until someone drives a dump truck full of money up to your door. People should not be allowed to “prospect” at the expense of everyone else on the street.

  • I mostly agree with Monkeyrotica. I wouldn’t say that the first couple of years a property is vacant the city needs to come in with a wrecking ball. But I live right next to a clearly abandoned property — the city isn’t even sure who owns it, so who knows if ANYONE is being taxed — and it wasn’t just abandoned yesterday.

    And you can get exemptions from this rate if you can prove you’re really doing something with this property, or that it’s tied up in probate, or something:,A,1342,Q,640818.asp

    I’d like to know how other cities handle this issue.

  • FYI, the majority of vacanty properties in DC are owned by the churches. Parishoners either leave the property to the church in their will or donate the property to avoid the taxes. After them, the second biggest abandoned property owner is the DC Government. They’re the ones left with the property once they’re siezed for delinquent taxes.

    The little old ladies in the suburbs are way at the bottom of the list of absentee slumlords.

  • what monkeyerotica said. also, regarding earlier dcpublius comment about the right to own land outright: unfortunately, in a city the presence of a human being or lack thereof directly correlates with the amount of services the square and lot will require. A vacant lot is more likely to be infested with rodents, burn down, or become a crack house, all of which tax city services disproportionate to an occupied house next door. thus, my property taxes are way lower than the crack house at the end of the block (thanks, Shiloh!). In a perfect world, these slumlords (Shiloh) would be paying the taxes, but that’s a different story.

    real reason tax was lowered: Shiloh said to DC “look I’m a good neighbor i’m going to put up all my vacant properties for sale! hook me up in the meantime.” they’ll never be put up for sale.

    in conclusion, go to hell, shiloh

  • Apparently the reduction from 10 to 5% has already occured as part of the budget. How brilliant for the council to levy new sales taxes and run a huge deficit and then cut a tax that was having a clear positive impact. There are several properties in my neighborhood that have sat empty and have been a blight on the neighborhood for years and years and were finally sold because of the change in tax rate and are now being fixed up. This is ridiculous and we should hold any councilmember who supported it responsible.

  • The bigger problem is the COLLECTION of the tax money due at ANY RATE!! 5%, 10% whatever…Many of these property owners – Shiloh Baptist Church, Michael Sendar, Warren Williams to name a few, have overdue taxes on their 20+ year vacant properties…and the city has done squat to collect them…why is that??? Seriously, can someone find the answer to that question???

    Meanwhile they are asking all other taxpaying citizens to dig into their pockets and come up with more money that they can give away to inefficient programs…the number of youths I see walking around doing nothing with those blue Mayor’s Summer Youth T’s is crazy…

    Collect the money that is due before you come asking for more!

  • monkey: i completely agree with you that the city could eminent domain the hell out of a lot of these properties, but the point i was making in my initial statement that you didn’t refute was the part about demolishing these properties.

    there are a lot of perfect good buildings that i think a lot of the commenters here agree should be put back into decent use by people who actually will care for the buildings. demolishing all the shiloh buildings along 9th street, for example, would be a loss of fine architecture, good building stock, and a waste of resources, frankly. can we at least agree on that?

  • In my talk with a DCRA guy, Nicholas Majett, he said his office didn’t like imposing the higher vacancy tax rate because it was very harsh and extremely expensive for the recipient, so they avoided it at all costs. While I understood his charity I was appalled that our regulatory officials could act as such and felt it related to a culture of no-punishment-for-wrongdoers I see across the DC government. There are no sticks here, and the carrots are corrupt.

    One likable alternative might be to separate vacant properties from nuisance properties. I of course don’t mind if a property is simply vacant yet well maintained, but if its falls to weeds and crack it should be reclassed as a nuisance and taxed a higher rate. Right now vacant and well-maintained is classed the same as vacant-and-nuisance. The nuisance property technically should be subject to city-mandated abatement (ie grass cutting and boarding up) that the owners would then be billed for, but in truth this rarely happens due to small abatement staff (like 8 people I think). The linked article seems to indicate Bowser is doing something like a punishment for nuisance vacants, though its likely dead in the water.

    Face it, we’re screwed.

  • mr. q: you’re absolutely right that it’s imperative that the city do a better job actually collecting the money that is owed on these properties. that’s another place where shiloh is a poster child for doing the wrong thing.

    i’ve received direct message on twitter from councilman kwame brown regarding this tax, and he’s not being very clear (admittedly, how can one be in 140 characters or less?) about why he was in support of moving the tax back down to 5%.

  • @IMGoph – Yes, I agree that it would be preferrable to preserve/refurb those properties. But this town has a long history of “demolition by neglect.” How salvageable are properties that have been abandoned for decades? I don’t know. Nobody does and nobody ever will so long as Shiloh continues to squat on them. At what point does public safety/security trump historic preservation? According to the Council, it never does. Unless some developer wants to build a half-billion-dollar boondoggle hotel so a bunch of convention center perverts don’t have to walk more than a block with their tranny hookers.

    Also, do you know what the two reasons southerners used to justify slavery? The Bible and “property rights.” Yet every weekend, suburban churchie hipocrites doublepark downtown so they can feel good about Jeebus and babble about how “You can’t make no connection with a screw and another screw” and how “the man” is going to take away their property.

  • The tax rate should stay, but DCRA needs oversight. The last time I checked, they used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of vacant properties. When DCRA inspectors intentionally incorrectly report that properties are vacant – there is not accountability.
    (yes, I emailed my council member, and have been fighting DCRA about this for years. Someone else can bring it to Linda Argos’s attention this time.)

    DCRA needs a database system for Vacant properties that records who reports the property vacant, so that there can be some accountibility. Personally, I think my sector supervisor is the corrupt one. (Ms. Rice)

    As far as “not being able to raise capital to fix the property” goes: Then sell it at loss, or rent it at a lower rate – or for the cost of repairs. The DC government is not required to make certain that property investors (flippers) make a profit. The government is there to help all of the citizens of DC – in this case, by removing blights on neighborhoods.

  • Pennywise:

    Nicholas Majett cannot find his rear end with both hands. I am not suprised that he can’t follow the rules now, as he never could before. The last story I heard about him: a friend was improperly cited for something & the number to call to dispute the claim went to a full voice mail. (someone was on vacation) Nicholas said he would take care of it, and got transferred to another office with no information about the case being transferred to my friend. NM let the citation contest period lapse with no action taken, except for an email saying “don’t worry about it.”

    My friend spent over 9 months fighting DCRA in court before the citation was dropped. DCRA has no accountability and NM is a leading part of the problem.

  • One point that hasn’t been made is what exactly is “abandoned”? I know of several occupied homes that have gone on the market and received Vacant Property Tax notices once a For Sale sign was in the front yard.

    The city is casting too large a net which is leading to complaints which is leading to a back sliding which is, obviously, easier than correcting the issue. Gas and cigarette taxes are easier and sexier and with come with little complaint.

  • am20, no disagreement here. To up the contentiousness of this thread, which is remarkably agreeable, I’ll utter the phrase I continually think of when thinking of DC policy on vacancy, decay, development, etc: “better blight than white”.

    Awww snap!!! 😉

  • As an American, I don’t think it is the business of the city to tell people what they can do with their property. At the same time, property in DC is relatively scarce and in high demand, so it seems like the interest of the public at large is being completely ignored if you just allow slum lords to maintain their ownership easily.

    In the case of DC, they government should be taxing the bejesus out of those who don’t maintain their property. In a more rural setting, this policy would not make sense, but in a place like DC it does. Tax them like crazy, try to get them to sell the property back to the city for a fair price, and have the city immediately sell the property to the highest bidder. While I am a fan of less unused property, I am not a fan of the city buying and keeping the land.

  • Hi Everyone,

    First off, I don’t think we need to rag on religion and people of faith just because a particular church congregation may not be serving our idea of the public good. It’s unnecessary and it takes away from the larger argument.

    I think the 10% tax is completely fair. I bought a largely neglected house (it rained in my living room) at a distressed price and I’m in the process of renovating it (I’m not a flipper). The people we bought it from were totally shady slimeball slum lords who had huge tax issues and wouldn’t have sold it if they didn’t have to. They would have continued to neglect the property and eventually some poor family would be forced to live in substandard housing until the place was condemned. The people who we bought it from paid $30k in 1977 for the house. I think they can move on; a 20x ROI is pretty good in anyone’s book.

    Owning properties is a business. The rules..even the 10% tax are completely fair. *oop or get off the pot as they say. The city has a vested interest in maintaining quality housing because the people who actually live here have a vested interest in maintaining quality neighborhoods. The landlords..churches, bridge and tunnel owners, whomever, don’t deserve a sliding scale. If they can’t afford to keep up the property, then they have to sell it. If they have to sell it at a distressed price, well ‘them’s the breaks’; it’s a lesser evil than leaving a perfectly good property vacant and most of them made a killing during the good years.

    Regarding demolition, if the city has to take over the property (refusal to pay taxes or sell over a 3 year period) then they should auction it with a zero bid minimum and expedited building permits but with a clause that they can take it back if it’s not habitable within 2 years. Demo should be a last resort for “nuisance” properties that the city can’t even give away. I guarantee you there are close to zero properties that the city can’t even give away.

  • How about (we) the govt. offer 5% rehab loans to the owners with the property held as security? If the owner defaults, govt. takes the property and sells it as they do now for tax sales.

  • I second CH Resident.

    If they actually followed through with this law, they’d be able to transfar land from those who don’t use it to those who actually will use it and the city would make a fortune doing it.

    Everybody who lives in the city wins.

  • Much of this talk assumes a city council and government which seeks to improve the lives and quality of city residents. This is wrong. Or, perhaps more correctly, the removal of all tax burdens and the provision of permanent welfare are the outright goals of both, not economic development and sensible land use policies. Quit fantasizing. Or, fantasize appropriately.

  • This is an important and timely blog posting. Unfortunately the rate has already been lowered and one of the chief proponents is the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CHNED). An unreported aspect of the tax rollback is the Council’s intent to better define ‘blighted.’ Council Chair Gray said that W4 CM Bowser is leading the effort to come up with a better definition. However, there also needs to continue to be a penalty and the sliding scale could be a meaningful compromise. It seems that negotiations are taking place at the Wilson Bldg and more with CNHED and other developers than with residents like us who have to contend with these eyesores and their effects. I’d suggest that we contact CHNED Chair Bob Pohlman to have him meet and hear from residents so that the group understands the need for penalties in addition to a better definition. We also need to have CM Bowser hold public meetings (hearings or roundtables in the wards) to get these ideas on record or at least allow her to broadcast her thinking so we will know whether to gauge the redefinition as a give-away to developers (nonprofit and for profit) or a real and meaningful solution. By they way I encourage you to visit the Natl Vacant Property Campaign, We don’t have to do this alone; there is a nationally recognized and organized group that can help all stakeholders in DC come to a mutual agreement, getting vacant properties back on track.

  • Wait, I thought slumlords had tenants? Isn’t this more like slumbankers?

  • Yeah, this is a shame. The higher tax rate deincentivizes hanging on to vacant property that imposes external costs on the neighborhood while waiting for the neighborhood to develop and property values to increase. However, what owners are going to feel the incentive to be the first ones to develop if there are fewer costs associated with doing so?

    Bad city policy at its worst.

  • In my experience, the hefty vacant-property tax didn’t work. The owners would get permits to do penny-ante work on the interior, claim that the property was under renovation, and thus win exemption from the tax.

  • City Council member email addresses:

    [email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]

    Some of these are interpolated from other councilmember email addresses, as a few don’t provide public email addresses and require you to use a web form submission.

  • The 10% tax rate was discouraging anyone from lending money to acquire these sites.

    From a bank’s perspective, it increases the likelihood of a tax foreclosure — which means that the developer you want to attract is not going to be able to get financing to do the rehab you want.

    It also means the developer is going to have to charge a lot more money to cover their carrying costs. So, forget about doing any development that the average resident could afford, and forget about pursuing projects in neighborhoods that are less affluent.

    If you think getting tax foreclosures is going to speed redevelopment of vacant properties, you’re mistaken. You need to spend some time in the waiting rooms of DCRA and tax and revenue…

  • Most of these vacant lots don’t have mortgages. These are lots owned by folks since before the riots. However, their value has increased, so the amount they owe in taxes increases.

    If they can’t pay, there’s no foreclosure. If they can’t pay, the city gets to take the property.

    Then the city can sell the property to the highest bidder.


    Time to take the trash out.

  • My sister and I just inherited a property in KS that is in really bad shape. We have 90 days to fix it, sell it, or face major fines and criminal charges.

    Why couldn’t DC do something similar to the properties that are in major neglect.

    We are busting our butts to avoid the fines and criminal charges.

  • JW…DC could do that, but won’t. My grandmother owns a house on Prospect Park in NY. 15 years ago every single house around hers was abandon and falling apart, but in the 90’s the city used eminent domain to take them over and now they are all fixed up and occupied and it is a very desireable neighborhood.

    There are 4 properties near my house that I was hoping would finally be taxed higher when this law passed, but now I guess they will sit there for another 10 years bringing this city down….

  • Sorry Anonymous. While that’s the rational for a slumlord: Buy, hold (property degenerates), wait for neighborhood to pop, sell out. That’s called speculation, not development. Lower taxes do not incentivize property speculators to redevelop properties. They encourage property speculators to sit on properties until a neighborhood pops and then sell out. The lower the annual cost of the property, the longer they can hold.

    The real tug of war is with the tenants rights laws in DC which make it extremely difficult to evict a tenant even if they are month to month. It’s hard to close a property sale on an occupied property. Why would you want to buy a property that’s going to have a tenant issue while you’re renovating when you could buy a vacant property with fewer headaches.

  • Wow, lots of scarry posts here today. Including “give it back to the govenment”. yikes! property rights are essential to any modern, or at least democratic society. second, we already fought a war over property rights and taxes. Foreclosed homes to do not generate tax revenue. Tax lien’s are ok but Eminent Domain never struck me as very democratic ( see that war thing above). Society has an interest in the condition of these homes toa degree, but seizure is bit extreme for the individual. Sure a high tax rate will help by lowering the number of existing and future derelict homes. I just cant see someone tearing down a piece of property i own and turning it into a park. I understand the public benefit, but many on this thread are ok with it, since they dont own it.
    There should be a higher tax that escalates over time, or a processes whereby a home is derelct and x number of years to change or sell before the State takes it.

  • “Foreclosed homes to do not generate tax revenue”

    Again, we’re not talking about foreclosed homes. We’re talking about homes that have been owned for years, even decades. The only debt on the houses is tax debt.

    And we’re not talking about the government taking the properties, keeping them, and/or turning them into partks.

    We’re talking about the government taking them and selling them to the highest bidder who will then actually use the property.

  • monkey: sure, DC has a long history of demolition by neglect, but we just saw with the fiasco at the corner of 16th and T that the city can, if it wants to, step in and force property owners to deal with their property in such a way that is truly beneficial for all involved in the end. there’s no reason (well, aside from corruption and stupidity) that the same reasoning can’t be applied to shiloh’s properties, and others as well.

  • I e-mailed my council member, Tommy Wells and got this reply back:

    Thank you very much for your email. I’m committed to keeping the tax rate at $10/$100 assessed value on properties that are derelict, nuisance, boarded up, etc.

    The Council is looking to make some changes however to undo the unintended consequences when the $10 rate was imposed. I think there may be some confusion that all of Council wants to drop the rate to $5 for all vacant property.

    For example, we’ve had situations where an elderly homeowner falls ill and is in the hospital, only to find that their property was reclassified at the higher tax rate. We’ve seen the same scenario for someone in the armed services that was deployed out of DC. We’ve also found an unintended consequence for vacant land for larger developments — the financing market dried so quickly, many projects are reworking their funding, but were hit with skyrocketing “vacant” tax rates even though they’re actively working to redevelop the land.

    In short, the initial change created some unintended consequences we need to approach thoughtfully, but I remain committed to maintaining a strong disincentive for an owner to leave their property as a derelict or nuisance building.

    Thanks again for your email,

  • Anon 1:37, allow me to fill in it in for ya. the State can use abusive tax rates to force foreclosures on properties (your assumption that all neglected properties are w/o financing) thus depriving the state of revenue from that property, but (assuming the bank doesnt sit on it forever either) eventually bring the property back into city revenue. Through a tax lien, or it is recycled by the debt holder.

    Now, lets talk about the DC govs contractors auctions and track record with property

    Take a property (the property) on 10th st nw. Boarded up for 23-25 years. Big corner house, eyesore. The city recieved it through a tax lien probably in the 1980, 1990s. They did a contractors auction. This failed. Nothing happened for years. After calling, the city started mowing the lawn and even re-boarded up spme windows and hauled some trash out of the place. This was something. IN january (you may recall POP linking the auction) the house was sold and is being renovated.

    So here is what we have: 20 odd years of loss tax revenue, not to mention intangible cost to the neighborhood. They could have done the auction during the boom and made some serious money from flippers and speculators, but instead sold it low, after the boom when financing is harder to find.
    So the process takes app. 20 years. The city made 0$ over that 20 years, think opportunity cost. Thats the killer, it isnt the tax rate its the lost income, and the intangible loss to the surrounding community. No one should be arguing whether the city needs to change the laws, codes or the system. They need to, or need to fund, getting off thier asses and getting things done w/o a decades timeline. Its failure via apathy. And that, unfortunately, seems to be the unwritten motto on the Wilson building.
    Accountability has surrendered.

  • Looks like i picked the worng thread, POP can I move the last paragraph to Random Rant or Rave?

  • It is clearly a mistake to reduce the tax at all. If anything it should be higher. The problem is simple. Owners of these properties a speculating that the property value will increase over the long term. The problem is that in the short term it means that there is lessing housing available on the market which raises rent rates but simultaneously prevents home values from rising since they are surrounded by vacant housing.

    The tax tries to give the property owners an incentive to sell or at least renovate and rent out the property. If anything I wish they would raise this tax. It would result in lower housing costs for the poor and spur the increase in value of housing in the district.

  • I support financial solutions to these issues- tax the vacant properties at the high rate to incentivize doing it. the government should NOT seize property but should make it financially impossible for people who aren’t capable of maintaining property they aren’t living in

    there is a house near me gutted by fire and the owner steadfastly refuses to get a loan to fix it up or sell it, instead slowly but surely over the last 10 years plastering, painting and doing one room at a time while he lives elsewhere.

    I think he’s an idiot. do you? Does your councilmember?

    I knew a vacant house that I wanted to buy but here was the deal- owner died and gave the house to 6 children. one adult child REFUSED to sell their childhood home and particularly because two siblings were drug addicts who would use the money to buy drugs. One heir, on drugs, was missing.

    House was empty for at least 6 years. Who is wrong here? What should the role of the government be? (I mean what should it be both if it was you and if it was someone else)

  • I wrote that before reading the linked article… I am sorry for basically repeating what the article said. The real solution here would be a progressive tax that would grow the longer the property has been vacant. I would suggest 1 year could be 2.5%, 2 years 5%, 3 years 7.5%, 4 years 10% and up. That would mean that the claims of property owners that the tax was preventing them from being able to afford a renovation moot and would create a greater and great incentive to use the property as time went on.

  • Do this, think about the properties on your block. Are they just vacant? Or are they vacant AND nuisances; i.e., boarded up, long grass, trash, rats, crime, etc. Maybe we should be taxing the latter category more than the former category. it seems to me that the latter poses a much greater harm to our neighborhoods than does the former.

    Now if we could only develop a definition for the latter, we might be able to convince enough council members to draw such a distinction in the law.

  • And then there’s the other side of this entire thing- my neighbor, who has their home (worth probably $500k) on the market for $1mill, for 2 years now, simply because it allows him to skip out on paying his 10%. But don’t worry, Uncle Sam doesn’t seem to give a crap.

  • Houseintherear:

    Here’s some facts about the vacant property tax exemptions. Residential property owners only qualify for 12 months of exemption for having their property listed. After that, they either have to pay or somehow qualify for another exemption category (such as ongoing legal proceedings). And even after qualifying under another exemption category, no property can be granted exemptions for more than 5 years. So eventually the owner will sell.

    Can someone explain what the motivation for hanging on to these properties is? I understand that some owners may want to hang on to them for a while to appreciate value, but for those that have been hanging on to the property for decades, and were maybe gifted the property as part of the estate, what was the value in not selling a few years ago? Surely the money would be more beneficial than a vacant address not generating any revenue?

  • I think everyone should read Erik’s post @ 2:39 p.m. that included a comment from Tommy Wells. The council seems to be trying to rework the law to make sure it doesn’t impact homes that are “vacant” but aren’t necessarily abandoned, a nuisance and/or a blight on the community.

  • When O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore there was a strong push on the part of the city to take over ownership of abandoned buildings and rehab/resell/repurpose them (it was called Project 5000). I suspect that Baltimore had worse problems with vacant buildings than DC did so I don’t know if the same type of program would work here, but it just goes to show that if there is political will, then the city can do something about these properties. I just read Take5’s comment and it appears that they do this in NY as well, so why not DC?

  • @DC_Chica: Because DC is reluctant to let itself become an affluent city.

  • why doesn’t the city just take the vacants, sell them to Marlo Stansfield, and then he can bury all the bodies he wants.

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