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Editorial: City right to try to address blighted vacant properties

Vacant homes are beacons for people who are up to no good.

And they’re a nightmare for neighbors who are forced to stand by as many of these properties fall into disrepair, attracting criminals and drug activity and driving down property values.

Unfortunately, dealing with those problem properties costs the city of Albuquerque hundreds of thousands of dollars – more than $450,000 last fiscal year alone. City crews often have to go back time and time again to board up windows and doors, only to have the homes broken into again.

The City Council created a task force late last year – Councilor Diane Gibson sponsored the legislation – to study how the city can better tackle the issue. The task force presented its findings and recommendations to city councilors in January.

Among the recommendations:

• That the city explore the possibility of forming a land bank, essentially entities that would be created to acquire and maintain problem properties, the ultimate goal being to get those properties into the hands of responsible owners.

• Exploring legislative options at the state level to extend the statute of limitations on the collection of municipal liens beyond the current four years. Currently, if the city doesn’t collect on the liens within those four years, it doesn’t get paid.

• Amending the city’s Uniform Housing Code to require that a property have a designated local responsible party.

All of these proposals are worthy of serious consideration, particularly the idea of lobbying state lawmakers to ensure that municipalities are able to recover money they’ve spent abating these nuisances even if the four years has elapsed.

The city estimates that from 1,200 to 1,300 residential properties are vacant, though not all of them are substandard. Still, the effect of substandard, vacant properties on neighborhoods is troubling and needs to be addressed.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.