The Lot-Next-Door Program and the Mass Foreclosure Program are on their way to becoming an official committee as the Hopkinsville City Council will vote on the matter during their meetings in May.
Consisting of Community Development Services Director Steve Bourne, Public Works Director Mike Perry, Hopkinsville city attorney Doug Willen, Revenue Enhancement Officer Kim Osteen and Hopkinsville City Administrative Officer Troy Body, the currently unofficial committee was pulled together through Body’s leadership to better coordinate, strategize and develop the Lot-Next-Door and Mass Foreclosure Program.
Body looked back to his experience dealing with forgotten lots and structures in the city of New Orleans to find a way for the city to get back some of the tax money spent on upkeep for the lots.
City Attorney Doug Willen explained the liens placed on the properties that will be publicly auctioned off will not be the responsibilities of the new owners.
Willen also explained that the renewed efforts in this type of program have been successful because of new state statutes.
He added that there is a statute that says after a 10 year period, liens made against the house will just disappear leaving the city in a huge financial hole.
“There was also a change in the law, that code enforcement liens have priority over any other liens,” Willen said.
Initially when houses were foreclosed on, Willen said, the money made from selling the property would be prioritized to mortgage liens.
The programs are a means to invest in the city while getting back the tax payer money the city has poured into the disheveled lots.
Body said it takes a lot of manpower, time and money for the Public Works Department to maintain abandoned lots.
He also said that the same properties go reported by their neighbors due to the longevity of their abandonment and their lack of visual appeal.
Discussing abandoned houses, Willen said that lots not properly taken care of can increase crime in the area and bring down the property value of neighboring properties at a rate of about 20%.
Though a city council vote will not mark the start of these programs, Body explained that he drew inspiration from Louisville and New Orleans to best draft a program that would fit the needs of Hopkinsville.
From the get-go, Body explained that he knew this project would not be a short-term deal and that he and his fellow committee seats were in it for the long haul.
Body said that the city tax office currently has four file cabinets full of liens/fines on lots and structures within the city limits worth about $6-8 million.
Talking about the house on 20th Street behind the “Castle” House on South Main Street, Body said, “That big yellow house is the thing that everybody talks about. It’s in a neighborhood like that and a house like that, if we can just sit there and allow that house to dilapidate, what are we doing?”
In order to get to all of the forgotten, unkempt lots, Body explained that they are making a data-driven map that will highlight properties with back taxes and back taxes and city liens.
There are many paths in which these properties will make their way through the Mass Foreclosure Program then the Lot-Next-Door Program.
In light of the issues brought on by abandoned lots, both Willen and Body said that numerous people have already been interested in buying the lots adjacent to them.