Affordable Housing (taking the baby steps)
The St. Paul Pioneer Press did a special series on blighted properties (Dec. 5, 6 and 7). The nuts and bolts of the articles was that cleaning up properties and getting them back on the tax roll is super complex. In the October issue of the Frogtown Times "Vacant Houses" article reported that Frogtown & Summit-U leads the city in vacant homes with 120. What keeps buildings vacant? Tax laws play a part…. Foreclosed property that ends up in the hands of HUD can remain vacant for what seems like an eternity to frustrated neighbors.
This bogged down process, coupled with the need for affordable housing, and the role of the County continues to be a major policy discussion item for the Board. To initiate one part of the discussion and to keep things moving; i.e. getting property fixed up and available for rental or new ownership, Janice wrote a letter to Interested Citizens, District Council Members, and Block Clubs. Re-purchase of tax forfeited properties is a first step, if you will—a baby step—an essential beginning. The letter follows in its entirety:
As many of you know, when I was on the Saint Paul City Council, I co-chaired with Ramsey County Commissioner Ruby Hunt the 3PR (Property Rights, Property Responsibilities, and Property Remedies) Task Force. Those efforts revised all housing/property maintenance codes, ordinances and resolutions on the books. Equally, working with others, I worked to achieve the establishment of the Housing Court, which is beneficial to tenant, landlord, and owner alike. The excessive consumption of enforcement services ordinance (including police, code, and inspection services) added a tool for the most egregious property problem.
Unfortunately, tax forfeited property or property in the process of forfeiting could not be addressed in the above solutions. The lengthy process for properties in general and the more expedited process for properties located in certain census tracks still presents challenges for you, the City and the County. These challenges also present a major challenge in the protection and improvement of the quality of life within a neighborhood.
To address one of the tax-forfeited issues, as Commissioner, I initiated some changes in the County processing of re-purchase requests. The new rules and procedures for Ramsey County are attached. * The Property Records and Revenue Department is working hard to implement this process in a fair and equitable manner.
Essentially, this process gives you, the District Council, Block Clubs, neighbors, and businesses standing in the process and an opportunity for a sharing of your comments and concerns regarding a property and the request for re-purchase by the current owner. Conversely, the process gives the current owner an opportunity to be heard. Equally, enforcement agencies will also be contacted for the history of the property. This information needs to be shared with both Councilmembers and Commissioners. Councilmembers may discuss the property, hear from all wishing to be heard, and pass a Resolution with their direction and advice to the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners who is responsible for making the final determination on the ownership of the property based on all the information provided.
The Board of Commissioners will hear in committee all the critical information. All affected parties will be notified of the meetings. After all relevant information has been reviewed, the Property Records and Revenue staff will make a recommendation to the Board and the Board will make a final decision.
This policy change is just one more plank in a multi-faceted solution to keeping and maintaining quality housing and buildings and maintaining the quality of life in neighborhoods. I hope this process will prove useful to you.
If you would like to discuss this policy or other housing property maintenance issues with me, please feel free to contact me at 266-8360. My e-mail address is Janice.Rettman@co.ramsey.mn.us. My staff and I are most willing to attend meetings too.
*Rules are available on the Web @ www.co.ramsey.mn.us – Board of Commissioners, December 21, 1999, Minutes or by calling: Chief Clerk—County Board 651-266-8014.
Author: Commissioner Rettman / Information Services