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Editorial: ABQ right to ramp up enforcement on problem properties

Time’s up.

The city of Albuquerque has targeted a list of “Top 15 Problematic Properties” that have lingered in disrepair for far too long, a blight and sometimes crime magnet in their neighborhoods. The message to the property owners now is clear: Get these places fixed up, pronto, or we’re bringing in the demolition crew.

“Maybe if we shine a light on this, things will change faster,” Mayor Tim Keller said last week, standing in front of a pair of Southeast Albuquerque fourplexes on the problematic properties list. The City Council cleared both buildings for demolition last week at the administration’s request, formally designating them “so ruined, damaged and dilapidated as to be a menace to the public comfort, health, peace or safety.”

It’s the right move by the Keller administration, which has given property owners plenty of time to make things right. In fact, it may have been overly generous in that regard. By law, the city has to give a property owner at least one year before pursuing demolition of a substandard property. City Planning Director Brennon Willliams told the Council that the property on the demolition agenda last week had been in its current condition about 4 1/2 years and that the owner had made various unfulfilled assurances to get it fixed.

“None of those actions has taken place,” Williams told the Council, adding that the city makes every effort to let a property owner know what the issue is and how it can be corrected. Empty promises by property owners, however, don’t get the job done. Follow up is crucial.

The city has roughly 300 vacant and uninhabitable properties on its radar, and Williams said that picking the top 15 was somewhat subjective. Criteria include the amount the city has spent on board-ups and other remediation, the number of calls to police and fire departments and the length of time the property has been substandard. Twelve of the properties on the Top 15 list are south of Interstate 40; only one is in the Northeast quadrant north of I-40 and east of I-25.

The city has gone out of its way to respect and accommodate private property rights. That’s appropriate. But at the end of the day fixing or getting rid of these blighted nuisance properties is important to neighborhoods and to public health and public safety. The time is right for an aggressive campaign, and the city deserves credit for shining a light on the problem. Now, it needs to follow up on its tough talk with action that sends a message to property owners. Because 300 “ruined, damaged and dilapidated” properties that pose a public menace is too long a list.

Especially when you live next to one of them.

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.