A recent article discusses amendments to a “VPRO” that now require “owners’ names and contact information be displayed on placards outside houses on the vacant building registry.”

This approach, though clearly well intended, brings up several questions.

  • The city is paying for it.
    • Though “nominal” in cost, cost is a cost. Clearly they are not aware that numerous other communities require the registering party to “post” the contact information.
  • Does the risk outweigh the reward?
    • Though comments by the city attorney state the new law “will not apply to property owners selling their homes who keep them in good shape and don’t let them get run down.” Will placards be placed on maintained properties not for sale (i.e. going through foreclosure)? All it does is advertise vacancy and potentially attract the criminal element.
  • “City leaders say this would help first responders get in touch with owners if there’s an emergency.”
    • Why is it not shared with first responders immediately? Several opportunities exist to utilize this type of information proactively, such as adding the vacant properties to regular law enforcement patrols. With the well documented association between vacant properties and crime this would be a tremendous benefit.
  • “It also means owners of vacant houses won’t be able to stay anonymous. “The idea is put it there so everybody knows who owns the property,”
    • The information can be shared to concerned parties directly. Whether its neighbors or neighborhood associations etc. No need to advertise vacancy. This approach also builds open communication between the municipal government and the concerned citizens.

When you read the articles you can clearly see the frustration the municipal officials feel as a result of the negative impacts vacant and abandoned properties are having on their community.

Will it work? Realistically, will direct calls and complaints to the owners from neighbors (with no police or court powers) be enough to spur action?

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. But going at it alone while not leveraging “best practices” from other communities that have the same challenges, is just not the right approach.

#worksmarternotharder #thinkoutsidethebox

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