Politics
10:01 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

City Highlights Progress on Demolitions, Foreclosures of Vacant Properties

Joined by Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, and other city officials, Mayor Greg Fischer says Louisville Metro Government is increasing its efforts to tackle vacant and abandoned properties.

The demolition of abandoned properties went up by 30 percent in 2012, and city officials are aiming to foreclose on another 100 homes by June 30. According to different housing reports, Louisville has an estimated 7,000 vacant homes and approximately 1,300 of those are abandoned.

Fischer is spending $125,000 in the current city budget to file those foreclosures, and says the goal is to reduce the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent in the next three years and 67 percent over the next five.

"This is one of those projects that is so big it's easy just to throw up your hands and say it's been going on for decades, and we can't do anything about it. Well, I want to say that if you live next to an vacant or abandoned properties and the weeds are six feet tall, I can tell you that it is not an acceptable answer to say there's nothing we can do about this," he says.

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

A report compiled by the Metropolitan Housing Coalition last year showed that the concentration of vacant properties disproportionately affect west Louisville neighborhoods. One such property is a house located 3313 Hale Street, which was demolished by Public Workers on Thursday and is among a dozen slated to be torn down in the coming weeks.

Scott is vice-chair of the council's ad hoc vacant properties committee and has been among those publicly pushing for the Fischer administration to do more to raze those structures. She says the homes present a public health and safety issue.

"There may be some who are sad to see that home go, but to be honest with you the block watch captain who lives three doors down from that house is going to be happy that we're making his job easier. Because we all know the issue with houses in this type of disrepair, and the kind of illegal activity associated with them," says Scott.

The west Louisville Democrat is spending $25,000 in discretionary funds to speed up the city's demolition program, which the city lawmaker has dubbed the "Bringing Down the House" campaign.

The council has taken a more active role in the city's housing crisis in the last year, with the creation of an ad hoc committee. It is also gearing up to discuss a new ordinance proposed by Councilman Rick Blackwell, D-12, to hold banks accountable for vacant properties.

Fischer reiterated his support for that legislation despite opposition from the Kentucky Bankers Association, saying he hopes lawmakers adopt the measure.

The mayor's office also announced the hiring of a real estate broker who will work to dispose of properties the city owns by selling them to residents, businesses, non-profit groups or investors. 

Fischer's office also has created a new online Google mapping system that pinpoints vacant structures and vacant lots along with property maintenance violations.

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