A Dallas crackdown on vacant lots and buildings that produced success downtown is going citywide.
Dallas City Council Members voiced support for the plan Wednesday but were disappointed to learn that the city is the owner of hundreds of the properties.
Officials have identified 3,400 vacant properties where there is no water connection and back taxes are owed.
Council Member Carolyn Arnold said neighbors have made it clear what they expect.
“They want to get a program that will be more aggressive in holding the feet to the fire of those individuals who continue to disrespect,” she said.
The new program requires registration of vacant properties with contact information for owners so the city can reach someone in the event of problems with the property. Voluntary registration is free. Those who don’t comply will face fees to cover the cost of enforcement.
“Having this program, promoting more voluntary maintenance of their property, would I think relieve some of the burden on staff of having to chase people around,” Code Enforcement Director Carl Simpson said.
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More than 600 of the 3,400 properties have out-of-town owners in property records.
“On many vacant lots we don't know who owns the property because it might be an heir, or in a will,” Councilman Tennell Atkins said.
But the city has identified the owner of 453 of the 3,400 vacant properties and it is the city of Dallas.
“We shouldn't subject our residents to the kind of blight that we're asking people to register to not have when it's our own city's,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax said some are small parcels leftover from construction projects and many are residential lots the city has acquired through foreclosure or the land bank program.
“We are actively trying to get our lots, particularly those that we’re not holding for a specific project, developed,” Broadnax said.
Councilman Chad West said there is a desperate need for affordable housing in Dallas and those lots could play a role.
“And if we’re just sitting on these lots and not pushing them out, shame on us for doing that,” West said.
Officials said code inspectors are marking the city properties to see that they are kept up to standard as they also develop a database of the privately-owned vacant lots for better enforcement.
“I just don't have faith that we can be adding all this extra work when we struggle so much with just the basics,” Councilman Omar Narvaez said.
Officials said 34 additional code enforcement employees were added in the new city budget to focus on these blighted vacant properties, including those owned by the city.