Urban Fold

Whither Vacant Buildings?

Officials in Fort Worth, Texas, are searching for ways to deal with buildings left vacant by businesses struggling during the recession. Other cities and the state of Texas are also addressing the issue.

"'One of the worst things you can have in your neighborhood is a boarded-up building,'" said Brandon Bennett, director of Fort Worth's code enforcement department. "'It attracts crime.'"

Recognizing that vacant buildings pose a long-term problem, Fort Worth code compliance workers a year ago started a public review to consider an ordinance to better control vacant buildings, but the work was tabled. The issue has since resurfaced and city employees are wanting to talk with real estate agents, mortgage companies and lenders about the best way to address the problem, Bennett said.

Last summer, when the review began, city workers noticed that vacant houses were generally boarded up for 1? 1/2 to two months, he said. Now more lenders and banks are boarding up structures to deter thieves, Bennett said.

In Arlington, the city launched a program to bill owners of vacant properties for inspections but recently put the plan on hold after numerous complaints.

In Austin, legislation has been filed to fine property owners who don't register vacant buildings with their city annually and show proof of insurance."

Full Story: Cities struggle with vacant buildings

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