Abandoned and Vacant Properties

Posted on Posted in My Platform
  • Fix our broken tax lien process.
  • Enforce and enhance our building ordinances.
  • Restore our IDA and bring affordable housing and jobs.

Fix our broken tax lien process

Our city has hundreds of vacant and abandoned properties which continue to cause blight and nuisance. We’ve seen the tragic results these properties have on our communities in the recent fires killing several individuals and a downtown building collapse trapping others. When I was on the Common Council in 2016, I helped make fundamental changes to our City’s Budget to start the process of overhauling our tax lien process and institute a land bank. Our current council has wasted that head-start and has done little but paid lip-service to the actions we need to get city properties back on their feet.

Poughkeepsie is one of only a dozen or so cities in NY State who still use an old-form tax lien auction to handle overdue property taxes. Studies have repeatedly shown this process hurts the local community by sending tax money to outside investors, and leaving “limbo properties” behind where absentee owners (who are often difficult to find) leave the properties to fall apart while they wait for their investment to come due. By moving to the modern “in-rem” process that other cities use, Poughkeepsie can offer installment payment plans to keep people in their homes and can make sure that property taxes go to city government to be used to improve city services.

Enforce and enhance our building ordinances

Until very recently, the City of Poughkeepsie had no means to recoup its costs when caring for blighted and vacant properties. Thanks to the late Councilman Tracy Herman we have a Foreclosure Bond Ordinance which gives the city $10,000 for each vacant property for upkeep.

But we need to go further, and our current Council has spent most of their time grandstanding instead of acting. Over the years, Poughkeepsie’s inaction has given our downtown an enormous number of vacant commercial rentals and residential units. In some cases, building owners had been given tax breaks if they took rentals off the market, rather than be taxed at the highest and best use of their property. We are not the only city in NY facing this problem, and we can learn from our neighbors to quickly enact laws and ordinances to change these policies.

There are plenty of examples of towns and cities using landlord incentives and strong code and tax enforcement to fill-in vacant units and build a thriving downtown. Not only does this type of effort improve the tax base, but it helps lower rents to affordable levels naturally by putting units back into the market. We don’t need to sacrifice parkland or gentrify the city to get ahead. There are plenty of underutilized buildings and vacant lots we should get back onto our tax roles and filled with productive jobs and family housing for our residents.

Restore our IDA and bring affordable housing and jobs

The current city council gutted the newly restarted Poughkeepsie City IDA, firing the city staff and qualified volunteers who had just begun making real changes to bring development and jobs to Poughkeepsie. My opponent sponsored legislation putting themselves and former school buddies onto the IDA board and then proceeded to approve tax breaks that disagreed with the City’s Uniform Tax Policy while failing to act on critical new job opportunities that were in the pipeline. We can and must undo these recent mistakes and return to national best practices with qualified IDA board members and a logical and fair Tax Exemption policy.