Bill to end blight gets mixed reaction from Richmond leaders

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The General Assembly is debating a bill that could give city leaders more tools to get rid of rundown buildings in local neighborhoods.

The new law would allow city leaders to set a time table for derelict buildings to be cleaned up, after which, they can move in and take action themselves. But Richmond officials are concerned that another aspect of the bill will allow delinquent land owners to escape their responsibilities free of charge.

Tariq Kirby lives on Richmond's southside. He has seen many areas of improvement in his community, but feels that improvement only goes as far as the worst building on any given street.

"Like if I had a 150 thousand dollar house and all of the houses around it raggity, I mean that will bring my property values down," said Kirby.

But it's more than just property value at stake. Boarded up buildings can become a playground for criminals.

The state legislature hopes to help. A bill has already passed a Senate committee that allows municipalities to designate dangerous properties as derelict and begin the process to have them fixed up to torn down. But identifying these homes is only the first step.

The problem with these properties, is that they are often left to decay and their owners are no where to be found.

Which is why Richmond leaders don't like another part of the plan that attempts to draw delinquent landowners out of the shadows. It calls for providing refunds and tax breaks as an incentive for them to take action. The city's planning department says that only will take money out of their pocket, and will not be enough to bring slumlords into the light.

Property owners that people in the impacted neighborhoods, never hear or see.

"I think if the city came in and knocked it down and put some pressure on those property owners that aren't doing anything with their houses, the property value in Richmond would go up and a lot of good could come from that," said Kirby.

The bill is still awaiting a vote by the full Senate. A companion bill has yet to be introduced by the House.

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