Vacant Property Meeting with Jack Evans and DCRA
Si and Michele Molotsky have provided excellent summaries of today's meeting with Jack Evans and senior DCRA officers (which can be found here), so I just want to make a couple of general observations.
First, my impression had been that even though DCRA isn't where we would like it to be, it is going in the right direction. That view was definitely reinforced by the conversation today. This has been helped by changes in DC laws that have reduced the wiggle-room for scofflaw slumlords and increased the penalties for letting properties crumble.
The problem is that execution still lags well behind the regulations and strategy, and it will almost certainly take continued pressure by civic groups and individuals to keep DCRA inspectors paying attention to specific problem properties. DCRA has begun a program to have on-site inspectors walk the blocks and note the derelict properties, but that effort hasn't reached Ward 2 yet and probably won't for at least several months.
This means, effectively, that if neighborhood residents want action on these problem properties, we will have to continue giving DCRA the information to direct them to the right place. We were able to hand over a list of some 40 such properties in the non-MVSNA area of Shaw that we compiled in about a day or so with help and tips from our neighbors, but that's just the beginning. I think we need to finish the job and try to compile a more comprehensive list that will give us the basis for following up with DCRA and OTR.
Speaking of OTR, it wasn't represented at today's meeting (maybe they were all in jail?). This was unfortunate because I'm convinced that OTR is where most of the balls get dropped. DCRA now has the authority to classify a property as Class 3, which increases the tax 5-fold now, and soon 10-fold. But OTR has not been following through, which means that the primary penalty for vacant property owners doesn't get applied. For example, of the 40 properties we identified, at least 75% were on the DCRA vacant properties list, but less than half of them had had the Class 3 tax applied by OTR. There are other problems as well, including ridiculously low assessment, failure to put properties with delinquent taxes on the annual tax sale list, etc.
But regardless, I left the meeting feeling guardedly optimistic--at least about DCRA--and I want to commend and thank Jack Evans and his staff, as well as Linda Argo and Nick Majett for holding this meeting. Let's hope that we can make some headway on this problem by working together in the future.
Labels: Vacant Property