Lorilyn C. Lilio
The Olympia City Council has approved an ordinance establishing a vacant house registration program. This is a move to create a database to identify vacant homes and deal with squatters occupying these properties by homeless people.
At a city council meeting last night, law enforcement officer JW Mahone outlined the ordinance.
Mahone said the city is in contact with banks and vested interests to make the necessary repairs to return the property to productive use.
“We are trying to cover some of the costs of mitigation as we spend a lot of money on these properties surrounding the homeless and causing some of the problems we have with these vacant properties. .
In initial information obtained by Code Enforcement, Mahone said there are about 1,700 to 1,800 properties that might meet the criteria for vacant or abandoned properties. They valued these properties based on utility bills. That means water outages, pre-seizure conditions, and code enforcement indicators like tall grass/weeds and broken windows.
Mahone said the vacant lot had become a “charming nuisance” for the community without a vacant lot program.
He added that finding absent owners is difficult and time consuming.
But a program like this would make it easier for the city to get in touch directly with banks, lenders, or owners. The city can quickly identify those responsible for abandoned or vacant lots.
“We have squatters. We are dealing with a lot when it comes to these vacant homes. It’s difficult,” he said.
The purpose of the ordinance is to share information with the Olympia Police and Fire Department, Mahone said.
He added that the city would get faster response times to deal with epidemics, public nuisances, hazards and illegal activities.
The ordinance assists the city in finding owners of abandoned/vacant lots, requires annual registration of these properties, and provides the current status of the owner, property manager, or agent with a vested interest in the property. Aim to have and maintain a local representative or contract. Properties by city code, law, and ordinance.
Mahone said properties trigger registration when:
- Vacant for 90-180 days
- Shortage of utilities for 90-180 days
- Pre-Foreclosure, In Progress, or Full Foreclosure Status
- Bank owned (property owned by real estate)
- MeIndicators that the building is not occupied – no window coverings, no tall weeds/grass, no junk/debris on site
- any combination of the above