Artecia Thompson, Northeast Oklahoma City
Context: Thompson recently moved from California and thinks that strategies used there could help repair and move into abandoned homes in Oklahoma City. She said that would help revive dilapidated neighborhoods.
David Oen, Chief Building Inspector
Context: In December 2013, Oklahoma City approved a registry for vacant and abandoned buildings — part of a move to monitor and halt the growing problem. This followed a study that found more than 12,000 buildings were abandoned or vacant, up 25 percent over a decade. All but 3 percent of the structures were single-family homes or multi-family residential. In early 2014, under pressure from the Oklahoma Association of Realtors, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law banning city registries for vacant properties. Among the association’s objections were registry fees. Now, Oen said, the city will turn to maintenance fines to push property owners to make changes.
A Deeper Look:
Clusters of Vacant Homes
From a 2013 GSBS Richman Consulting study on the effects of vacant and abandoned properties in Oklahoma City:
- A poor economy is not the cause of the increase in abandoned homes. The primary reason is the lack of a financial incentive for owners to invest in their properties. Average rents and sales prices are low in troubled areas. But the “carrying cost” for owners to keep a vacant or abandoned property is low: Property taxes for such properties average less than $10 a month in Oklahoma City. “Vacant buildings cost so little to own that owners prefer to keep them vacant rather than putting them into productive use,” the consultant’s report said.
- Services for vacant and abandoned properties can be costly. Police calls to 100-foot-long block faces with at least one such property — a measure the city uses – were 190 percent higher than those without a vacant property. Fire calls were 84 percent higher and animal welfare 115 percent higher.
- The city loses money on vacant properties in other ways: $14 million a year in potential revenue from property and sales taxes, licenses, service charges and the like; and $57 million in spending on water and sewer services for “redundant” properties that wouldn’t be needed if the vacant properties were occupied.
Images of Blight