A Problem Affecting Your House's Value
One of the largest problems facing the City is housing blight. Many houses are abandoned and without regular maintenance deteriorate to the point that the houses are no longer habitable. Other homes are vacant because the mortgage company has not yet gone through foreclosure. All of this has a negative impact on the value of homes in many neighborhoods.
Blighted homes are the type of houses where there are a significant health and safety concerns such as:
- Unsecured houses that attract vagrants or criminals.
- The house is in such disrepair to be not habitable because it does not provide the basics for human necessity such as heat, plumbing, water, electricity, adequate weather protections and free from disease and waste.
Recognizing this problem and after reviewing the problems in work sessions and multiple City Council meetings, City Council adopted two new tools - the vacant property registration ordinance and the receivership ordinance. These tools are in addition to the current code enforcement process. The issue is diverse and requires multiple tools.
Vacant Property Registration
In March 2016, the City Council adopted a vacant property registration program. This tool is intended to address "zombie foreclosures" or homes that have not yet gone through foreclosure and to prevent blight.
Here is the problem -when the City tries to contact the property owner to address issues, the absent owners claim that the mortgage company has possession of the property. Yet, when the City searches for property records, there is no record of the lender taking possession of the property because the property has not gone through foreclosure.
The lack of maintenance is often driven by the lucrative mortgage selling market. This silent foreclosure often allows banks to continue to collect the mortgage insurance, often more lucrative than maintaining the property.
The City's solution is to require, upon default of the borrower, to require the lender to perform an inspection of the property. If the property is vacant, the lender shall register the property with the Code Enforcement Division of the Police Department. The registration includes the name and contact information for the lender and is free.
The benefit to the City is that the lender will be responsible for maintaining the property for security and to prevent the property from incurring code violations. Further, if the City spots issues, it can contact the lender directly to obtain compliance.
This is only one tool to address blight. This tool is intended to prevent the loss of value in vacant properties or adjoining properties due to a lack of maintenance.
In July 2016, the City adopted a second tool - a program that allows the City to pursue remedies under the Oregon Housing Receivership Act in Oregon law. This is for properties that have already lost substantial value, but that are salvageable.
In this program, the City investigates houses to identify houses where the program would make a positive impact. Ideal properties for the program are vacant and neglected homes, subject to a mortgage or not, in neighborhoods where the costs to remedy the violations are likely to be recovered. Other potential candidates may be homes that are beyond repair and demolition may be the best remedy.
Where a receiver might be beneficial, the City would give notice to the owners and mortgage companies. If the blight was not abated, the City would petition the Circuit Court to appoint a third-party receiver to remedy identified code enforcement and housing issues.
If the Circuit Court appoints a receiver, the City's formal involvement would end and a third party receiver would take control of the property. The Circuit Court supervises the abatement of identified code issues. The receiver would pay the taxes and address the issues causing the blight. At the completion of the abatement, the receiver would receive a super-priority lien with administrative fees, second only to taxes. If the mortgage company and owner fail to pay the lien, the receiver may foreclose its lien.
Since the receiver's lien is higher priority than the mortgage company's lien, it is the City's hope that mortgage companies will comply with the initial notice and a petition to Circuit Court is unnecessary. In other instances, the City will need to make a case by case determination on the likelihood of success.
The City will work with groups to become receivers qualified under the Oregon Housing Receivership Act. Currently, two groups have expressed interest. If no individuals step up to become receivers, the City will not pursue this program.