Put Land Bank properties to use
To add a possible way for the city to save a lot of money every year and also increase its tax base, let’s look at the properties in our Land Bank.
According to the city’s website http://www.louisvilleky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/4664C106-DC98-4345-8BBD-1210863A6766/0/LBAInventory061511.pdf, there are almost 350 Land Bank properties owned by the city.
A spot check showed PVA valuations of $8,000 for one in Park Hill, $10,000 for one in Portland, etc. Though these properties presumably are listed as a city “asset,” they are really costing the taxpayer a lot of money in maintenance every year, and reducing the city’s tax base by not generating any tax revenue. Even if each property only costs the city $50 a month in lawn mowing, that multiplied by 350 is $17,500 a month, or $210,000 a year. Every year.
The city could do one of two things: Hold an auction and make these properties available, even for $1, to anyone who will commit to improving them within one year to the point where they are certified habitable, taking care of the maintenance and paying the property tax on them; or the city could list them for sale and accept proposals for use and bids, and the best ideas with the best long-term potential for neighborhood transformation would win. There would have to be some claw-back provision to prevent unscrupulous speculators from profiting unfairly or not following through.
So instead of the city losing $210,000 a year on “bill-producing assets,” the city could generate some tax revenue, save the $210,000 in expenses every year, AND have some better looking, safer neighborhoods. In addition, think of how many jobs maintaining and developing 350 properties would create.
I believe the present Metro policy is to demand payment equal to the PVA listing valuation for any transfer of such properties. This neglects a better public policy of reducing the city’s expenses by trying to find responsible owner-developers for these properties. I am unaware of anything proactive that has happened with any of these properties in the last five years (is there an urban renewal plan?), and am equally unaware if there are any plans for most of them for the next five years, so non-action in this regard results in over $2 million of taxpayer money down the drain.
Issues related to vacant or abandoned properties, foreclosed properties, tax liens on properties, neighborhood development in low-income areas, and so on are all important and part of the bigger issue that needs to be addressed, but this first step seems to be an easy and cost-effective one.