Tuesday, October 10, 2006
A good post-peak strategy for making better use of urban land
When Wilmington, Delaware, Mayor James M. Baker took office in 2001, more than 1,500 abandoned and vacant properties peppered the city, bringing crime, contributing eyesores to community landscapes and lowering property values.
To encourage owners to rehabilitate or sell the properties, Baker persuaded the city council to enact the Vacant Property Registration Fee Program in 2003-an ordinance that bases a sliding annual registration fee on the total number of years a property is vacant. The fee starts at $500 for a building that has been vacant for more than one year and goes up to a maximum of $5,000 for 10 years.
Before a bill is sent out, the city sends a notice informing the owner of the years of vacancy and the size of the fee. The program also allows fee waivers, which give property owners one year to rehabilitate, sell or demolish their properties. Since the program's creation, the number of vacant homes in the city has declined by 22 percent, from 1,455 to 1,135, and has brought in nearly $1 million in fees to the city and spurred over $15 million in new development.
To learn more, visit www.ci.wilmington.de.us/vacantproperties.htm, or call the Department of Licenses and Inspections at 302-576-3096.