Post and stock photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.
In many ways, this is public discourse and public service at its finest.
Several weeks ago, I and other northside housing activists noticed that quite a few tax-forfeited properties were winding up in the hands of slumlords. The more we looked at the issue, the more we realized that the system was essentially set up to enable those property owners and shut out good ones. It only took one blog post (and some discussion on North Talk) before County Commissioner Linda Higgins and Minneapolis Council President Barb Johnson responded and set up a meeting. I used a second post to lay out some potential solutions prior to that discussion.
Higgins and Johnson came prepared, however. At that meeting they and city and county employees laid out a series of proposals for how to limit such problematic acquisitions. I believe we all left that meeting energized about changing our community for the better. At least as a citizen, I am tremendously excited when there is swift constituent response, especially when that response comes with solid proposals that our elected officials come up with.
Much of those are already being put into action, as Commissioner Higgins' most recent newsletter indicates. In case the link goes dead after a while, the pertinent items are:
Changing How We Sell Tax Forfeited Properties
As much I use this blog to call for positive change in our community, I do try to recognize when our local government really comes through. This is definitely one of those times. There is still work to be done, and even these changes shouldn't be viewed as a complete fix. But Higgins and Johnson, and other staff, took direct action in response to constituent concerns. That response was swift, appropriate, measurable, and should deliver results that our community needs. There's not much more to say for now, except "Thank you."Hennepin County is reviewing our tax-forfeited land sales program (TFL) to ensure we are meeting the purpose and mission of the program. We have begun a joint review process with University of Minnesota Professor Ryan Allen to review the TFL program, and we are examining the program and will improve the program to best meet the needs of our county.
Recently, concerns have been raised about the use of contract for deed sales. Currently, a tax-forfeited property can be purchased using a 10-year contract. We are hearing that this isn’t being used in the manner in which it was intended and have implemented a moratorium on contract for deed sales while the evaluation is in process.
We will no longer sell condemned properties using the contract for deed method, except in certain circumstances. Buildings that are not up to code will be sold only through full cash payment at the time of purchase. Other requirements include bringing the house up to code within one year, agreeing to live in the rehabilitated property as owner-occupant for five years, and prohibiting subsequent sale or assignment during the terms of a contract for deed.
Two other exceptions are included in the new policy. One is if the purchaser is a state agency or governmental subdivision of the state acquiring the property to correct blight or for housing redevelopment. The other is if the purchaser is a former owner making repurchase through the county’s Repurchase Policy.
I’m pleased that the county could make these changes in response to concerns raised by our residents. I thank them for being engaged with the county and working to find a solution.