Custom Search

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spike in vacant buildings is costing St. Paul time, money

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.

22 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

The wave of foreclosures has left buildings empty while officials and advocates try to combat crime and declining home values.

By CHRIS HAVENS, Star Tribune

Last update: December 15, 2007 - 10:59 PM


Squatters, stolen pipes and broken windows have taken up a lot of police officer Dean Koehnen's time in the past year.

That's because more than 1,000 buildings -- most of them residential -- landed on St. Paul's list of vacant properties between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1. Add that to the 550 that were on the list at the start of 2007, and St. Paul has a costly and visible problem.

More than 2.5 percent of the city's 56,000 residential buildings -- single-family, duplex and multi-unit -- are unoccupied. The concentration of empty buildings in certain neighborhoods and an ever-increasing total -- about 100 more buildings each month -- have city officials and housing advocates trying to figure how to fight blight, crime and declining home values.

"It's definitely a hot topic in the last year," said Koehnen, who is on loan to help the city's code-enforcement department.

"There are absolutely more calls [to vacant buildings], and it is taking more of our resources to look at them," said officer Mark Wiegel, who spends about half his time on housing-related cases.

The city has had an average of 450 vacant buildings per year.

"Is this a problem?" said Nancy Homans, policy director for Mayor Chris Coleman. "Yes."

The problem is not exclusive to St. Paul. Cities across the nation are dealing with the mortgage bust, declining home values and their own unoccupied buildings. But while it might not be exclusive, it is unfamiliar.

"We've never seen this kind of spike in this short of a period and in this volume," said the city's Steve Magner.

His department monitors vacant buildings once they're reported and makes sure they're in compliance with the city's nuisance code. The majority of the city's vacant houses have significant safety concerns and need to be secured, sometimes by being boarded up. A record $100,000 has gone to boarding up houses, a cost the city tries to recoup from the buildings' owners.

Magner's department has taken on additional workers and put lots of overtime into the issue. The budget for monitoring vacant buildings has jumped from $338,000 in 2005 to $607,000 for 2008.

The reasons the buildings are vacant run the gamut -- divorce, foreclosure, a soft housing market -- officials said. But the majority are the result of foreclosures, Magner said.

A remarkable fact is that very few, if any, of the buildings are in tax forfeiture, according to Ramsey County records. That means property taxes are being paid.

So the government is getting its money, but it's also spending more to deal with the issue. Some costs are covered by charges assessed to the property owners if city workers need to shovel snow, mow lawns or haul garbage.

View from the street

What does it mean to a neighborhood with more and more dark buildings on the block?

The effect on residents is significant, said Dawn Garland, housing director of the East Side Neighborhood Development Co. They're worried about housing values and people breaking into vacant homes and stealing copper, causing explosions or starting fires, she said. Some people have even told her they've thought about not paying their own mortgages.

"It really messes with people's sense of hope," she said. "It's just sad."

Said Wiegel, of the police: "When you've got three or four houses in a block boarded up or with a placard in the window, it attracts more of a criminal element."

In some cases, though, a house going vacant can be a temporary blessing to a block because bad neighbors are no longer there, said Council Member Dan Bostrom, whose Sixth Ward has the most empty buildings in the city.

Charley Swanson, who lives on Cook Avenue a few blocks off Payne Avenue, said he's not that concerned about the vacant building outside his front window or the other one a few houses down.

"It's more of an indication of the housing market than the livability of the neighborhood," he said.

Coleman has said his goal is to make St. Paul the most livable city in the United States. A growing list of vacant buildings doesn't help reach that goal, but he said the Invest St. Paul program, which targets the four hardest-hit neighborhoods, is one way to help.

But the city, Homans said, isn't equipped to solve the problem by itself. "It's an issue we're taking extremely seriously, but we don't want to cause panic that we're on the verge of clearing blocks and blocks of land," she said.

The federal and state governments, as well as financial institutions, need to help, she said.

Jim Erchul, executive director of Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, said the city will get people back into all those vacant houses, although it could take years.

"The sad part is a lot of people will have a lot of pain between then and now," he said.

Coleman has said his goal is to make St. Paul the most livable city in the United States. A growing list of vacant buildings doesn't help reach that goal, but he said the Invest St. Paul program, which targets the four hardest-hit neighborhoods, is one way to help.

But the city, Homans said, isn't equipped to solve the problem by itself. "It's an issue we're taking extremely seriously, but we don't want to cause panic that we're on the verge of clearing blocks and blocks of land," she said.

The federal and state governments, as well as financial institutions, need to help, she said.

Jim Erchul, executive director of Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, said the city will get people back into all those vacant houses, although it could take years.

"The sad part is a lot of people will have a lot of pain between then and now," he said.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542






Chris Havens • 651-298-1542

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece of shit Koehnen and his partner Lisa Martin have worked overtime condemning these homes and causing them to be vacant. I'm not one bit sorry to see it costing the city money. I hope it put them in the poor house just like they have done to people.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the city council and the mayor that was going happend.

two years ago, but no care. let
keep up work and hope that things
will be ok. Let just increase taxes for those who still in
their homes. Maybe need increase
taxes by 56% next year to pay for
all vacant homes in St.Paul.

Leslie K. Lucht

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the city goes bankrupt. They wanted all these neighborhoods cleaned out and now they have. Choke on it assholes.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city is getting just what they wanted, now the citizens can pay through the ass in property taxes and cry all they want! You get what you deserve.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They've screwed up the dynamics of the whole city. All those people getting arbitrary compliance inspection notices have many other roles, friends, contacts relatives. This operation is pure poison to the city.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Someone-that-knows said...

You nave not seen anything yet.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will St.Paul become a ghost town?
Does The mayor care?

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leslie just like Bostrom said.Its a good thing these houses go vacant to clean out the bad apples.

I for one don't mind seeing blue place cards in the windows of houses instead of pant sagging thugs causing crime.

Leslie you are just mad the cities finally chasing away your gravy train of cash from your thug tenants.

George

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the city force some of these slumlords to live in their own mess for a while.

The spike is mostly nationwide based on the corrupt lending practices and slumlords thinking they could turn a buck on nothing like Leslie and his ilk.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:21 with minds like ours and the city we'll clean this town up!The Leslie Luchts of St.Paul can go to the first and second ring suburbs to run their filth apartments.Right Chuck?I'm on Chucks side when it comes to you slumlords.


George

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of us following this issue are not landlords, but we think something is very wrong.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George,
I'd rather for the slumlords to stay here and clean their act up. I don't think poor people in the suburbs deserve anything less than the poor here in the city.

Sending them to the burbs is not the answer. Setting some standards and equally enforcing them is the answer.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

george and 1:21,

One Thing I do not have aptments,
I have houses. And My houses are
up to code. All only thing I was order
do is put grass seeds on my lawns.

I bet the your house is not up to
code. Just wait until they come knocking on your door.

Like I said more vacant home lower
your values on your home.

That is why no one can sell their house in St.Paul.

All my tenants are single mothers
with childrens. You want throw them to the streets.

You can buy my houses. that fine with me. If you keep calling me slumlord. I will hire Lawyer and take your ass to court and we see
who pays.

Why not use your full name ?
Maybe because you just a baby.
You can me lazy. Yea, right I work
a fulltime job 40-55 Hours A week
And work on my places.

Like I said before you do not Know
me. just keep hidding. Just call
The city council or mayor. And Asked about me.
Spend more money
on places then you see in a year.

just keep calling me names and more shit about me.

Then I see your ass in court. Then you will be paying me.

And sounds like you do not know to much of anything. Just remember when
the city comes knocking. I told you so.
Leslie K. Lucht

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like with "Big Oil" and Big Tabbacco," I don't think it wise for the city to screw with "BIG SLUMS!"

When they rile up those "Ghetto Papas," there's hell to pay.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leslie they won't mess with me cause I am a home owner and don't rent to thugs like your tenants.Your single mothers bring in their thug boyfriends and you know it.Oh yeah sue me.If you thought the city was doing something you'd be in those fake rico lawsuits,but you're not.So quit trying to ride on those slumlords coat tails.

You all are but a bunch of slumlords.Rent to someone who gives back to society.Get your rents to market rate and have a rental criteria to weed out the shitbags!

Get the picture we don't want the boarderline tenants.As soon as you understand that you will be welcome again.



George K. (come get me)

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

george

They do go after homeowner too.

I know of about 20 case of that.

I still see that you are hidding
George K.. Such as big baby.
Your are on unemployment and sit around and bithing about everything.

You Know that Just got two cars.
2008. And its nice to have new cars.

The city council gave more money
to low income persons. Than to home owner.

What on tv during the day. Or what are you watching??
You the shitbag that suck on the tit of gov.. You are the lazy person. Sit around all day than bith about things. I bet that you are not marry. It must sad to be you. My tanate call me up ask if want spen xmas with her family.

But I had to say no. She think that you are sick person.

Hey maybe she move in with you.
Then she would be rnting from me.

Maybe you should let move in with you.

One thing she do not clean her unit. She love to watch tv.

The two of you can do it together.

It time for me to go to work.
And make money.

Leslie K. Lucht

4:38 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

I deleted 2 slanderous post from this thread against Leslie Lucht.


Leslie Lucht has made it clear he doesn't appreciate the insults. Frankly I don't like it either.

He isn't as thick skinned as other posters who post here regularly.

Leslie has made it clear he desires to sue individuals who use slanderous insulting statements against him. I know Leslie well enough to know he is prepared for legal battles.

So,, to protect myself and the integrity of this forum if the anonymous poster wishes to keep insulting Leslie you will have to provide us with your identify, or I will delete all personal attacks on Leslie. WHY, should I be responsible for your false statements against Leslie?

A word about Leslie. Leslie is the image of a citizen who is living the American dream. He is a blue collar worker at a well known major industry in Saint Paul. Working 40 to 55 hour's a week. After his JOB he maintains his rental properties as if he lives in the homes. He is NOT a slumlord, lazy or stupid. These types of remarks are usually used when someone feels they are losing an argument. They seek to distract from the dialog at hand.

The belittling is CHILDISH. I don't care if you have an English major, when you start belittling someone it is a statement about ones self. SO,,,, who really looks bad here?

Leslie do not let these rude comments keep you from speaking your mind here.

And to the insulting anonymous poster, your opinion is welcome here. Please find a better way to get your point across.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leslie what part of I don't like tanants don't you understand?I come hear and speak the truth and your buddy Bobby boy sticks up for you.
Hey Bob how abot leslie slandering me.
You guys and your tenants are a bunch of shitbags.
The city should do us all good and shut this site down.You guys scared Repke away and now this Leslie guy sounds a whole lot like Bill Dahn.


George K

7:48 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

George, it isn't possible for Leslie to slander you. George isn't your real name.

No double standard here.

George, the city CAN'T shut this site down. THERE WOULD BE HELL TO PAY. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

It's called the FIRST AMENDMENT George.

I don't want YOU or LESLIE to quit posting here.

"WE ARE ON A TRUTH SEEKING MISSION"

The truth ALWAYS prevails here!

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Leslie gets first amendment and I don't.

Animal Farm?

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George or whoever you are; just exactly where would you like to see these families live that either cannot qualify to purchase a home or are less fortunate then others? If you look at homelessness it has been on the rise, I am sure that lack of REAL affordable housing contributes to those numbers...The cities attack on these landlords has put many families out, and before you come back with the slumlord bit...NO not all landlords are slumlords or are you calling the St.Paul chief a slumlord?

Nancy O.

9:30 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home