Task Force Suggests New, Bold Ideas to Fix Albuquerque?s Vacant Home Problem
January 19, 2018
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new set of ideas the city is considering may help solve Albuquerque’s longstanding problem with vacant and abandoned homes.
A recently formed Albuquerque city task force on vacant and abandoned homes has now proposed two dozen recommendations for ways that the city government could address problems linked to abandoned, vacant and substandard properties.
An estimated 1,300 vacant homes are spread throughout Albuquerque. Often times, those homes draw transient populations and other problems like drug use, fires and other crime.
Councilor Diane Gibson spearheaded the creation of the task force in 2017. By October, the so-called “Vacant & Abandoned Houses Task Force” began meeting.
After eight meetings, they produced a report with recommendations that was delivered to city councilors on Wednesday, Jan. 17.
A co-chair of the South Broadway Neighborhood Association near Avenida Cesar Chavez and Broadway Boulevard, Frances Armijo is very familiar with the problem of vacant homes in her neighborhood.
“These problems have lingered forever,” said Armijo.
She and fellow residents recently surveyed the neighborhood, finding 30 vacant and abandoned homes. Some of them have been empty for years, drawing unwanted behavior.
“You can’t encourage people to move into your neighborhood when you have this sort of thing going on,” said Armijo.
Armijo says the neighborhood association has tried several different avenues to get someone to address various neighborhood properties, but with no luck.
“We’ve tried to write some of the owners and try to get them to cooperate, clean up their properties,” said Armijo.
One property she points to near the 1500 block on John Street has been vacant for 20 years, even caught on fire. Yet, the property has never changed.
“We’re not getting any help from anyone, the owners, the city, the state,” said Armijo. “Who takes responsibility for this property?”
Vacant homes are not just a problem of the South Broadway neighborhood. It is a city-wide issue. In an August 2017 interview with KRQE News 13, Albuquerque’s Planning Department Deputy Director Brennon Williams estimated there were roughly 3,000 vacant city homes, however, the city only has around 1,300 it knows of for sure.
The “Vacant & Abandoned Houses Task Force” is hoping to help address the problem with its suggestions. Their new report suggests 24 different ideas.
One of the biggest ideas is for the city to create a so-called “land bank.” That could essentially function as an entity designed to buy up vacant properties from “do-nothing owners,” and sell the homes to people who are actually interested.
Other ideas include revising the city’s “Uniform Housing Code” to allow for imposing civil penalties instead of criminal penalties.
The task force has also suggested the city get neighborhoods to do “vacant home” sweeps. Another idea is to create a website and hotline to make vacant home reporting easier. They also want to see the city create a publicly accessible map that charts the city’s vacant homes.
KRQE News 13 discussed the task force’s report and ideas with Armijo on Friday.
“Well, I’m all for that, we’re definitely for that,” said Armijo of the idea of a “land bank.”
Armijo says a successful roll-out of some of the suggested recommendations could help revitalize her neighborhood.
“We’d like people to build homes and stay in our neighborhood, that’s important,” said Armijo.
The task force has told Albuquerque City Council that it intends to keep meeting to see if they can help make some of these ideas reality. So far, there is no timetable on when any changes could occur.
Source: Government Technology