Let’s Fix That Tax Sale By George Lumley

first_imgLet’s Fix That Tax Sale: 4th in a seriesMyth Busting Continues By George LumleyAlmost time for the Christmas story that I found at the tax sale. Look for it next week. This week I want to add to the growing list of corrections to the misinformation that has been disseminated about the blight as it relates to the tax sale. So far I have covered that of the thousands of vacant and blighted houses only a small portion are involved in the tax sale process; That the sale process results in revenues to the taxing units while finding permanent solutions to many blighted properties without further burden to taxpayers; that the effective and efficient sale process used to collect taxes has had recent legislated revisions to make it a new tool to fight blight; and that people in the neighborhoods will buy these blighted tax sale properties, maintain these properties and even pay taxes on them.Letting the people in the neighborhoods own these properties is a much better alternative to the Land bank Idea promoted by the Department of Metropolitan Development and their private Evansville Brownfields Corporation Inc. I still support my position that Mr. Kelly Coures was wrong in stating that people in the Howell neighborhood, neighbors to properties, were not high enough quality in his opinion to own a vacant lot next to their house. I just do not see how he can justify spending almost $1,000 each year of public resources to maintain a lot land banked by the Brownfields until he finds an owner that suits his standards.Quite a few of the land bank expansion supporters have approached me to tell me why they think we need the expanded land bank. These supporters usually carry the same list of propaganda whether they represent churches, nonprofits, government, political allies, or neighborhoods. We do share common ground. Most of the ones contacting me in favor of funding land banking do not think it should be funded as a no strings attached gift of money to a nonprofit, especially if that nonprofit is the Brownfields.One of the ideas being presented is that there needs to be a central authority to keep track of all available property. One organization rather than various nonprofits, government, and private sector owners that may have different ideas or difficulty coordinating and developing properties. They think we need one small group to decide who can own and what can be done with any property that becomes tax delinquent. When a minister was presenting this idea I asked if maybe we also needed a central religion. I think I offended him. We do not need a central land authority any more than we need a central religion.We do need a Department of Metropolitan Development, Building Commission, and County Assessor to work together with the super powerful computers we have at the civic center to provide central access to all the records that are currently maintained so that anyone can look at potential development.Another Idea is that we need a land bank to hold lots until they can accumulate them into larger tracts suitable for development. I have been asking different ones presenting this Idea to take me to one such lot.Finally I had someone volunteer to show me one of the lots that no one wanted that should be land banked at the public’s expense until a bunch could be put together for a major development. We arrived at the lot which sat between two rentals that were in fair to better than average condition. Across the street were a couple of nice well cared for homes that were probably owner occupied. Ok there is the lot, where are the adjoining ones that will be accumulated and how long do you think that will take, I asked. Again, there were nice rentals on each side and what appeared to be nice owner occupied housing across and up the street. My guide agreed that it might be a very long time before more lots were available. He also agreed there might be a financial problem with the idea of the taxpayers land banking this lot at a cost of $1000 a year for looking after its maintenance. It could be fifty years before another lot becomes available. I offered my solution for such a case and I think he liked it.Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with putting lots together for development. I don’t know about large subsidized housing development, that is a thing of the past, but smaller development goes on already. The land bank proponents claim that an expanded land bank is need to put two lots together; however, Habitat, a small land bank, does this this all the time. Habitat was at the tax sale buying lots for just that purpose. I think we bid on some of the same lots.One of the lots that I bought is only 25 feet wide and I thought I would give it to a neighbor or put out a garden. One neighboring lot is owned by a bank. I contacted the bank and they will gladly sell me their lot for $1.00. They currently pay a contractor to mow it. I plan to counter offer that they pay me $500 and I will take it. I would then have a 50 foot wide Building site along with $500 to donate to Habitat. Or I can make a pumpkin patch and give jack o lanterns to the neighbors. Or I could give it to the Brownfields and they could pay $1000 a year in public resources to mow it routinely for the next 20 years so they can control what happens to its future. The Brownfields seem to dislike gardens so they could prevent the neighbors from having an unsightly garden and just mow it with public resources.Hard to believe but with most lots, even though they represent a responsibility to be cared for and taxes to be paid, I have been finding people in the neighborhood to take on that obligation with pride in ownership and commitment to their neighbors.I considered splitting my 25 foot wide lots that I bought at the tax sale and giving half to the neighbor on each side. I have heard about doing that many times. The Building Commission in South Bend claims this process is a successful part of their program. In Evansville I have heard that the city does it but the process results in a lot of problems. Supposedly that is one of the reasons we need to expand the land bank. I have been looking for these problem properties to see just exactly what the problem is. I just have not been able to find these problem situations or any recently divided lots. I sent the city a formal records request of these divided properties to see if I could isolate those that might have problems. I was surprised that the City replied that they didn’t have any record of any involvement in dividing lots. I think this must be one of those problem issues that Evansville leaders brought back from Detroit. A problem in Detroit but not here. Kind of supports my theory that the major problem with the tax sale, post legislated blight reforms if implemented, is misinformation and attempted manipulation to drive this $2.5 million no strings attached gift to the Brownfields.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more