KCK program tries to rid neighborhoods of blight

The Unified Government’s anti-blight SOAR initiative is starting to have an effect on Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhoods.

The program, which stands for Stabilization, Occupation and Revitalization, has increased communication among UG departments dealing with blight, and is starting to cut the waiting time for something to be done about neighborhood decline.

At a UG meeting on Nov. 16, UG administrators and staff described their efforts in better communication among departments handling procedures related to blight, and some challenges they face in moving the program forward. One of the goals of the program is to stabilize neighborhoods that are on the edge of decline.

Changes at the Land Bank are part of the effort. According to Commissioner Brian McKiernan, at the UG Neighborhood and Community Development Committee meeting on Monday, Dec. 4, houses now come in from the tax sale to the Land Bank, are put under the UG’s control to rehab them, and if they are too far gone, will be placed on the demolition list.

The advantage to the UG is when a property comes into the Land Bank, the UG can control the property, secure it and keep the grounds up, McKiernan said.

Chris Slaughter, UG Land Bank manager, at the Dec. 4 NCD meeting, told commissioners that the changes were starting to have an effect.

Slaughter said once houses come to the Land Bank, they are inspected and an assessment made whether they should be rehabilitated or demolished.

UG staff previously referred to a “purgatory” that a home was in after it did not sell at a tax sale. Slaughter said that long waiting period has been done away with.

More than 160 delinquent tax properties that did not sell at the August property tax sale were turned over to the Land Bank recently. Most were vacant lots; there were 17 homes that did not sell at the tax sale, and 19 homes that sold that were not redeemed, according to Slaughter.

“If a property makes it to a tax sale, it’s either going to be bid on and paid for by someone in the public, or it’s going to come to the Land Bank for us to take care of,” Slaughter said.

The next delinquent tax sale is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 14 at Memorial Hall, 600 N. 7th St. The tax sale property list is at http://maps.wycokck.org/gisdata/TaxSale/TaxSale339Details.html. A map at the website showed that most of the homes on the list were located in the northeast area of Kansas City, Kansas.

Slaughter said there are currently 38 contractors in the pool, with 85 homes affected, 65 houses are in the rehab program and 20 houses need demolition. The contractors, after making the repairs to homes, can make a profit upon selling them.

Four houses have been completed and the fifth was scheduled to be deeded this week, Slaughter said.

Rehab has started on 15 homes, with eight waiting for title reports and other items to close on, he said.

There are 14 houses that have been through an open house and people have viewed them, and they are waiting for offers, he said.

There are 24 houses from the tax sale in August that are being completed for final inspection and boarding, and they hope to have open houses on them by the end of the year, Slaughter said.

He cited a home on South Ferree Street that has been rehabbed through this program. It took a little under four months for the rehab of the home, he said.

When UG staff visited the home last week, they saw that a home across the street was now undergoing a total rehab, including painting and a new porch, he said. Another home on the block also was being fixed up.

He said he hopes this is the benefit that the UG sees from this program.

“Not only are we taking care of the individual house, but this is starting to ripple through the existing neighborhoods,” Slaughter said. “As this continues to grow, this ripple keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

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