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What the Hell is a Blighted Property?


Photo by PoPville flickr user rockcreek

I was trying to get to the bottom of the whole blighted vs vacant property tax issue. I think it is great news that CM Bowser has re-instituted the tax penalties (it will go into law when the budget is signed):

Example: If a vacant house is assessed at $500,000 for tax purposes, the owner will be charged $25K per year in vacant property taxes, or $5 per $100 of assessed value.

Example: If a blighted house is assessed at $500,000 for tax purposes, the owner will be charged $50K per year in blighted property taxes, or $10 per $100 of assessed value.

Following is the official description of a blighted property:

A blighted home is one that is “a vacant building that is determined by the Mayor to be unsafe, insanitary, or which is otherwise determined to threaten the health, safety, or general welfare of the community;

“(B) In making a determination of the blighted vacant building, the Mayor shall consider the following:

“(i) Whether the vacant building is the subject of a condemnation proceeding before the Board of Condemnation and Insanitary Buildings;

“(ii) Whether the vacant building is boarded up; and

“(iii) Failure to comply with the following vacant building maintenance standards:

“(I) Doors, windows, areaways, and other openings are weather-tight and secured against entry by birds, vermin, and trespassers, and missing or broken doors, windows, and other openings are covered.

“(II) The exterior walls are free of holes, breaks, graffiti, and loose or rotting materials, and exposed metal and wood surfaces are protected from the elements and against decay or rust by periodic application of weather-coating materials, such as paint; or

“(III) All balconies, porches, canopies, marquees, signs, metal awnings, stairways, accessory and appurtenant structures, and similar features are safe and sound, and exposed metal and wood surfaces are protected from the elements by application of weather-coating materials, such as paint.”

Now that looks like a whole lot of gibberish to me. I know that legal language is obviously necessary. But I’m wondering if someone can explain to me in plain English and bluntly when a property gets declared blighted. Is it basically at the discretion of an assessor? I may not speak, or understand for that matter, legalese but I sure see a boatload of “blighted” properties around town…

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