Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Receivership as a strategy for notorious nuisance properties

The Washington City Paper has an important cover story this week, "Life Is Hell for Tenants of Giant D.C. Slumlord Sanford Capital," about the systematic abuse of tenants by a residential property owner that seems to specialize in poorly maintained properties catering to the extremely impoverished.  The company has been sued off and on over the years.

Washington City Paper photo by Darrow Montgomery.

For as long as I've written this blog, I've mentioned how some states and cities have very strong receivership statutes, which allow for the seizure of properties, in order to "cure" nuisances and correct behavior. Ohio has a particularly strong statute.

-- Ohio Revised Code; Title 37: Health-Safety-Morals; Chapter 3767, Nuisances; Section 3767.41

 Pennsylvania too ("Pennsylvania passes receivership law with regard to vacant/nuisance properties," 2010). Also see "When tax lien sales further, not staunch, disinvestment: Indianapolis," 2015.

Note that DC Government's management of properties is not such a great track record that they ought to be the manager of such properties. In my writings, I've suggested this authority be given to nonprofits, as is the case in Ohio. To win receivership, a management and action plan must be created and approved by the Housing Court. To clear title of liens and to be awarded the property, the nuisances have to be successfully cured.

Why Sanford Capital's properties aren't being seized is beyond me. (Other than the fact that the city doesn't want to have to have too contentious a relationship with commercial property owners.)

Having such a statute and process in DC would go a long way towards correcting the negative actions of companies like Sanford Capital.

Taking the property will have a lot bigger impact than paying a legal judgement, which is tax deductible.

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At 3:44 PM, Blogger Mari said...

Why they aren't being seized... might be because of what happens the day after the property is seized.
DC government is a lousy landowner. When DC Gov takes a property it will sit vacant for years..... YEARS. DC Gov also doesn't appear interested in being a landlord. To hand if off to a non-profit seems interesting, but what non-profit out there that presently exists that is a real non-profit and not a "non-profit" that only exists to get contracts from municipalities?
Taking a property would make an impact, but it would also use up a lot of resources.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I missed this comment.

You are of course, absolutely right.

In my early writings, I joked that DC's primary property management strategy is "demolition by neglect." And that in an objective evaluation, using criteria of the Housing Courts in Ohio, DCG wouldn't be deemed a credible and eligible receiver, based on past practice.

That's why starting from the very beginning, I've argued that DCG shouldn't be the receiver, but capable nonprofits.

In Ohio, such activities are monitored by the Housing Court, so a receiver has to act, implement the plan to cure the nuisance, or they lose control of the property too. And receivers that fail don't get properties awarded to them in the future.

I can't claim to know all the ins and outs of the various nonprofits in DC, but one that I observe to be very credible is Jubilee Housing. An organization like that could become a receiver. (There are some good for profit property managers. They could act as receivers too.)

In Cleveland, it was the Cleveland Restoration Society (but because the job was so difficult, they got out of it for awhile). They were motivated to save historic properties from demolition.

And recently I wrote about a "nonprofit" business in Philadelphia set up to cure nuisances and make them habitable, usable properties that strengthen the neighborhood. (I can't claim to like their design choices but they do good work otherwise.)


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