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Metro Newsroom


City Makes Steady Progress on Vacant Properties

Thursday January 10, 2013

New Google maps show vacant structures across Louisville

Demolition of abandoned properties is up 30 percent. More than 77 homes are being forced into foreclosure due to owner neglect and abandonment. A real estate broker has been hired to quickly move properties from city government to new owners.

Those are some of the steps Louisville Metro Government has taken in the last year to address the complex issue of vacant and abandoned properties that plague neighborhoods, hurt property values and encourage crime.

“Though we have much, much more work to do, I’m proud that our team is showing progress,” Mayor Greg Fischer said today during a news conference at Metro Hall. He was joined by Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott, who announced that she would dedicate $25,000 in District 1 Capital Infrastructure Funds to help defray the costs of demolishing dilapidated and abandoned homes in the district.

One house scheduled to be razed this week is located at 3313 Hale Street, which has been deteriorating since at least 2002 and has been cited 90 times by various city inspectors.

“It was once a nice two-story house — a place where families were raised, children played, birthdays were celebrated, meals were eaten,” Fischer said. “It’s unfortunate that the city is tearing down this structure because this house was once a beautiful home that added character to this neighborhood. But, it certainly represents the broader issue we have in Louisville with vacant and abandoned properties.”

For the past two years, an entire team of city employees, including the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has been working on reducing the number of vacant and abandoned properties. Louisville has an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 vacant homes and, of those, about 1,300 are abandoned.

The goal is to reduce the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent (504 properties) in the next three years and 67 percent (844 properties) in five years. Reaching those goals will require a variety of efforts, from forcing vacant and abandoned homes into foreclosure and then getting them into the hands of new owners to targeted demolition of the worst properties.

Recent progress includes:

  • The demolition of 75 properties in 2012, a 30 percent increase from the prior year when the city razed 57 properties. The city plans to demolish 100 homes this year.
  • The start of foreclose on 77 homes, with that number growing to 100 by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Fischer allocated $125,000 in the current city budget for this effort. Because of the settlement by the Kentucky Attorney General with banks, the city will be able to increase that number in the coming year.
  • The hiring of a real estate broker to more quickly and efficiently dispose of properties which Metro owns -- getting them into the hands of people, businesses, non-profits or investors. Properties are being placed on the Multiple Listing Service so realtors and citizens can find them.
  • The creation of a new online Google map that pinpoints vacant structures and vacant lots along with property maintenance violations. This allows citizens to view this information at home, at work or on their smartphones (click here: Vacant Property Map)

Fischer also announced that, starting Feb. 1 and continuing the first business day of each month, the city will publicly release a list of all properties that have either been forced into foreclosure or demolished in the previous month.

“This is another step in showing the public how we are working to reduce the number of vacant properties,” Fischer said.

Fischer also highlighted some of the steps his administration has accomplished since taking office two years ago. They include:

  • Changing three state laws to help Metro better cope with these properties. The most significant makes the city the top lienholder, even above banks, when these properties are sold. That will help ensure that taxpayers are reimbursed for the money they spent caring for these properties when the owners don’t. The city has spent more than $10 million caring for properties in the last decades, including $1.8 million last year. The city has not yet started to realize the income from this change in state law but expects to in this calendar year.

  • Working with the Metro Council on a registry for vacant properties. This legislation, still pending, would require banks or mortgage holders to register with Metro Government once they start the foreclosure process. This gives city government one point of contact to ensure the properties don’t fall into disrepair.

  • Securing $3 million from Attorney General Jack Conway as part of $19.2 million Kentucky received as part of the National Mortgage Settlement. The funding will allow the city to foreclose on 700 vacant homes, demolish 75 vacant homes and create a revolving loan fund within the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help rehab vacant properties.

  • Creating a cross-functional team of city employees — people from departments as varied as Public Works to Codes & Regulations — working every day on vacant structures.

  • Launching the Mayor’s Innovation Team, which has the goal of reducing the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent (504 properties) in the next three years and 67 percent (844 properties) in five years. Reaching those goals will require a variety of efforts, from forcing vacant and abandoned homes into foreclosure and then getting them into the hands of new owners to targeted demolition of the worst properties.