“Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation to Revitalize Vacant Properties”

by Prince Of Petworth March 22, 2017 at 11:00 am 9 Comments

fla ave last vacant

From a press release:

“The Property Disposition Reform Amendment Act of 2017, aims to get vacant and blighted properties owned by District government into productive use by engaging licensed real estate brokers to sell these properties on the District’s behalf. The bill requires the Department of Housing and Community Development—which currently has up to 180 vacant and blighted properties in its portfolio—to follow a broker disposition process used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This would put properties on a faster track to getting back into use for affordable housing or other purposes, but does not change the current mission of selling these Property Acquisition and Disposition Division or “PADD” properties to non-profit organizations at a significantly discounted rate for the purpose of redeveloping them for low and moderate income residents.

“This is a sensible approach that is currently used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to turn eyesores into neighborhood assets,” said Silverman. “Many of these properties have fallen into such disrepair that they are blights on our neighborhoods, creating dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Instead, turn them into much-needed affordable housing.”

The bill was co-introduced by At-Large Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White. At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds was a co-sponsor. The bill was referred sequentially to the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization and Committee on Business and Economic Development.”

  • asdf

    Just bought a row house in Columbia Heights/Pleasant Plains (not cheap). I’m totally surprised by how many abandoned row houses there are just on my block alone. At least five or six in a two block radius. Invitation for rats, squatters/junkies, and fire.

    I don’t get it. Prime real estate, within blocks of major retail, restaurants, and metro.

  • BRP

    What about all the vacant properties that have been bought by developers but are just being sat on? There are two on one block around the corner from me in Adams Morgan – I think the developers bought the townhouses but the zoning laws were changed before they could do all the work they wanted to flip the properties. They’ve both just been sitting vacant for over a year.

    • jonah

      DC Council passed new legislation last year, written by CM Silverman that now requires vacant property owners to prove occupancy rather than DCRA doing the work to track down owners and prove vacancy. Additionally I believe it will limit the amount of time a vacant property can get a permit to avoid paying vacant tax rates to just one year. The legislation was awaiting a Congressional review period last I checked and should be law now or very soon. I don’t know off hand how quickly the requirement to prove occupancy will enforced but it seems to be a good change to address the vacant issues you mentioned. They are all over District.

  • There have been at least 10 programs like this that I can recall in the past twenty years or so – what is different about this one? Does anyone remember HUD project at 1334 Irving St. NW? (And yes, Silverman’s office knew about it.) It was renovated (badly) then sat empty for 6 years. It only sold a couple of months ago. https://www.popville.com/2014/02/dear-popville-dcha-renovated-home-sits-empty-for-3-years/

    • textdoc

      Yeah — I was wondering whether it might be a better idea for D.C. to just sell the properties and put the money into affordable housing, rather than requiring that the properties themselves become affordable housing.

  • Councilmember Silverman’s Bill proposes to speed up the disposition of district-owned vacant properties. While they should be returned to the market as quickly as possible (preferably as affordable units), there are only 180 units in this pool.

    Most of the vacant homes, apartments and stores are owned by private parties. Some of these are in probate, and there’s little that can be done about that. But others simply reflect the result of years of disinvestment. “Demolition by neglect” displaces more people than gentrification. Unfortunately, it is often ignored. Even more unfortunately, the District exacerbates this problem.

    If an owner allows a building to deteriorate, the District reduces the assessment and rewards the owner with a lower tax bill. But if an owner constructs or improves a building, the District increases the assessment and punishes the owner with a higher tax. This tax penalty is only 1% or 2%. But, it is imposed each and every year that an improvement adds value to a property. Thus, it has the economic impact of a 10% to 20% sales tax on construction labor and materials. That’s a huge disincentive for investment that only the affluent can afford to overcome.

    The economic incentives associated with the property tax are upside-down. Fortunately, some communities have turned this situation right-side up by reducing the tax rate on privately-created building values while increasing the tax rate on publicly-created land values. The lower tax on buildings makes them cheaper to construct, improve and maintain. Surprisingly, the higher tax on land helps keep land prices more affordable as well, by reducing the profit from land speculation.

    Without losing any revenue or increasing expenditures, shifting the property tax off of building values and onto land values can help make housing more affordable, make land more affordable and create more jobs in home improvement and maintenance. (A good-paying job is one of the best, but most overlooked cures to housing affordability problems.)

    Reducing the market price of housing, even by 10%, doesn’t solve problems for the very poor. However, because housing subsidies are calculated based on the gap between what a household can afford and the market price, lower market prices mean that a given amount of subsidy funding can assist more people.

    Let’s stop rewarding owners for allowing buildings to deteriorate. Let’s stop punishing owners who improve and maintain their buildings.


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