Independence officials seek approval of a proactive code enforcement program to address foreclosed and neglected properties in the city.

Independence officials seek approval of a proactive code enforcement program to address foreclosed and neglected properties in the city.

During a presentation Monday night to the City Council, Health Director Larry Jones said the foreclosure and neglected properties program would be administered in the same vein as the city’s award-winning neighborhood code compliance program. Jones said the latest program, which would need the city council’s approval, is in response to the increasing number of foreclosed properties in Independence.

“You can’t open the paper today without seeing more and more of what the (housing) market is like,” Jones said, adding 804 foreclosed properties and 30 neglected properties have already been identified to be included in the program. 

 The targeted properties, Jones said, are within the boundaries of the city’s federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

“The selected areas are where we have the highest number of foreclosures,” Jones said.

The gist of the program will involve monthly inspections of the targeted properties, follow normal code compliance procedures and will institute a profile of the properties, concluding with abatement of some exterior violations, billed to violators with a $150 administrative fee.

Jones said most of the 834 targeted properties are controlled by mortgage and banking firms outside of the city limits.

“We will be sending letters to the mortgage companies to let them know about the program,” Jones said. “We don’t want to blindside them. We want them to know what we are up to.”

Citing a 2001 Temple University study, Jones said a home located within 150 feet of an abandoned property decreased its value by $7,600. The FNPP should see to it that neighbors of those foreclosed properties do not complain about trash and weeds at the vacated properties, Jones said.

“Well, you know,” Jones said, “things have gone up in the last seven years. One-hundred and fifty feet is not that far away. At least five homes may be impacted (by foreclosed or neglected properties).”

City Manager Robert Heacock lauded the program as proactive and progressive in light of the tough economic times. If approved, Heacock said, the program’s $62,811 start-up cost would come from the City Council’s general goals fund, with an additional amount (about 10 percent) from a recent $1.8 million federal grant awarded to the city’s NSP through the state of Missouri. 

Heacock added, a full-time environmental public health supervisor and two temporary property maintenance officers, employed March through November, would administer the program.

“We think it is our obligation to be aggressive and prevent problems,” Heacock said.