Richmond explores new tool to fight property blight

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It is a problem that the City of Richmond has attempted to tackle for many years: Vacant and blighted properties. At a meeting Friday, City leaders were presented with a new tool that could help.

It's called "Vacant Building Receivership". It is a new way for qualified buyers to speed up the process of obtaining properties that current owners have neglected.

It doesn't take an expert to understand that a vacant- rundown property can destroy a neighborhood.

"The healthiest places are the places that have people and activity," said Rachel Flynn the city's Director of Planning and Community Development.

But while it is easy for a home to fall into rough shape quickly, it's difficult to get it back in order.

"It's hard to interfere with the 'free market,'" said Flynn. "It is a problem and then when it fails, the government has to come in and bail it out."

Enter the idea of "Vacant Building Receivership." It's a tool used by cities in other states that gives the court system authority to take a property away from a delinquent owner.

"If the court appoints a receiver, you can foreclose on that lien and it takes super-priority over all over liens," said Bill Herring from the Alliance To Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods.

Receivership can recover a property quicker than the government can through tax liens. And it can often keep people with ill intentions from buying up large swath of city seized homes. That is because perspective buyers are rigorously screened.

"So if your pre-approved it avoids speculation of people just buying at a tax sale," said Herring.

It could be a while before the City of Richmond could use vacant property receivership. It must be approved by the Virginia General Assembly and then the City Council.

Right now city leaders are examining the concept to determine if it is an idea they want to advocate.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.