The city is looking to sell $3.16 million worth of demolition liens that have been placed on 46 properties for demolition expenses, boarding up costs, and accumulated interests.
Acting finance director James Ten Hoeve said the city may sell the liens at less than the amount owed by each of the properties. The properties owe the city $2 million in principal and another $1.1 million in interest.
“I’m not happy about selling the liens at less than their value,” said council president William McKoy on Tuesday night. He suggested foreclosing on the properties.
Nearly all of the properties are vacant lots. Almost all of the properties have liens that are valued more than their assessed property.
“We’re going to be left holding the bag,” said McKoy.
“We’re holding the bag right now,” responded Pou. She said the lots are not paying taxes, but once liens are sold the lien holder, in order to preserve primacy, must pay taxes.
“This is a way to increase our revenue,” said the business administrator.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, worried the properties will never be developed once liens are sold. “Those people buy liens to just wait until they can get their money back,” he said of lien holders.
Mendez said some lienholders buy these certificates, wait, and then sell it when the value is increased rather than developing the land or making improvements. “They just keep the property there without any construction,” he said.
Ten Hoeve reckons the city never sold demolition liens in the past. Some of the liens go back to demolitions from 1997, 1998, and 2001, said Pou.
McKoy said the city is doing too many demolitions as a result of fires. He cited the fire that happened on Tuesday morning on 16th Avenue. He said insurance companies should be paying for the demolition cost of the properties.
Pou said the owners are responsible for their properties; however, in many cases the owners do not come forward leaving the city to address the hazardous condition that exists at a particular property after a fire.
Once the city demolishes a building it places a lien on the property.
“This is happening too often,” said McKoy. He wants the city to figure out a way to hold the owners and insurance companies of the properties accountable for demolitions.
Although owners can be quickly located through a deed search, finding the insurer of a property is not as simple.
Fire chief Michael Postorino said some homeowners do not have insurance to begin with.