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Monday, September 10, 2012

Portland to throw bureaucracy at vacant building problem

We're always skeptical, but never surprised, when Portland City Hall decides to add a new layer of bureaucracy to address an intractable social problem. Now it's going to require mortgage lenders to file a report and pay a fee (ranging from $20 to $9,000 a year) when a building that they've loaned against goes vacant. If they don't comply, there will be a hefty fine. Apparently the hapless defaulting borrower could also be on the hook for the fees, at least until he or she is formally kicked off the title.

Of course, at least one full-time bureaucrat will be needed just to shuffle all the papers around, and who knows how much other overhead is involved. Supposedly the new red tape is going to prevent squatting... or something. And they say in times like these it may generate $254,000 a year in fees.

Portland points out that such systems are already in place in localities like Hillsboro and Medford. And as we all know, Portland will not be out-nannied or out-bullied. But only Portland can craft a version that is truly intolerable and truly ineffective. And they're hard at work at it. The raft of proposed new rules (running nearly 1,900 words) is here; the justification, here.

We hear they pick up the garbage for the landfill every week in Hillsboro and Medford as well. Might be worth looking into.

Comments (30)

I'm sure they will levy those fees on say PPS for leaving their empty buildings ?

Gorbachev would be happy and at home home in Portland.

When a vacant property is registered with the city wouldn't it become part of the public record and be accessible to anyone who asks for it? I would imagine that a comprehensive listing of all the vacant properties in Portland would be a goldmine for a squatter or a thief.

to tankfixer's point, hard to believe this won't initiate law suits when some buildings are charged fees while others are not.

"Supposedly the new red tape is going to prevent squatting"

Gee, you kinda mean like what the homeless do downtown to screw up retailers?

I'm confused how they expect to handle this since they're going to need to figure out whether the bank is just a lienholder or its REO.

I'm just waiting for the first big bank to out-lawyer Portland and that $250K is gonna look like chump change.

Randy has the perfect attributes for a newly created position in the revenue department (and he will be available in January)...holier than thou attitude, strong arm tactics, experienced at selective enforcement. I wonder if he will be appointed or have to apply.

Gorbachev would be happy and at home home in Portland.

What's with the gratuitous slam on a perfectly decent Russian guy?

There are a couple of classic lines in the Justification Draft (#1139-B) from the City's Office of Irony and Unintentional Humor.

The vacant property registration program is designed to better track these properties and those responsible for them.

Translation: "Anything good that happens is because the city's politicians were involved. Anything bad, we had nothing to do with."

The program is designed to be a mechanism to protect residential neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned properties.

Translation: "We do know what blighted means. We just ignore it when we want an urban renewal district."

We recently had to move my elderly parents out of their home of nearly 60 years and this burglarizing, vandalizing & squatting (occupying) was an ongoing fear. It's one reason we purposely failed to post an obituary when my Mother passed ... and absorbed some criticism for doing so.

It took many trips and three day weekends for the extended family to eventually empty the contents, repair and get the house sold in a plunging home market.

We knew if the house ever were taken over by occupiers, the city would be of no help whatsoever. We figured the city would likely make our lives even more difficult.

Suspicion confirmed.

"Portland points out that such systems are already in place in localities like Hillsboro and Medford."

The document from Medford is included in the proposal. The Registration requirements note:

(2) No registration fee shall be imposed.

Yes, Medford does have weekly garbage pick-up and every other week pickup for co-mingled recyclables such as paper and glass (not compost and kitty litter).

This one goes out to David E. and Allan L. who both brought up Gorbachev. (Warning: Personal Life Anecdote so that cranky bastard Harry should stop reading now):

I knew we had won the Cold War when my dad returned from a trip to Germany and gave me a piece of the Berlin Wall.

But here's when I really knew we had won the Cold War: I was standing in the underground parking tunnel of the downtown Hilton in Portland, and a white Lincoln Town Car rolled in. Who should get out? Mikhail Gorbachev.

Many years before, I had taken a day trip behind the Iron Curtain in Berlin and their cars were jokes, especially compared to the Mercedes on the other side of the Wall. So when I saw the last leader of the Soviet Union riding in a Lincoln Town Car, the symbolism was hard to miss.

So a person can no longer afford to make payments on a house and ditches it.

And the city thinks they can shake them down for more money?

CoP bureaucrats can't pass up any opportunity to make life more difficult while spinning it to look they're doing you a favor.

Wait... isn't that one of the hallmarks of a bloated bureaucracy?

Tim: This ordinance is not for defaulted home mortgages only. It's proposed for a whole variety of residential, commercial, developed, industrial or undeveloped properties and greatly expands the "responsible parties" including, but "not limited to..." an executor, Real Estate Agent, mortgage servicer, bank, or lien holder.

It would require adult children hiring of a property management company for a fully paid for home when the elderly have a long hospital stay. Even undeveloped acreage could be defined as "abandoned".

I guess this is more evidence the city already has all of their priorities sufficiently taken care of.

Sounds like a tool for Metro and the PDC to create some type of abandonment blight map and plan their condo bunkers accordingly.

Or possibly adopting a policy like in many third world countries where unoccupied property automatically becomes the property of whomever stumbles upon it.

The City wants to know everything about you so they can help you. That is all it is, they just want to help. They aren't happy until you're not happy.

On the good side, the definition of "Vacant Property" does exclude the very vacant Wapato Jail from the registration requirement.

The problem, and some Legislators tried during several sessions to address it statewide, is that when a bank takes over a property through foreclosure, they do not register ownership in County records. Many properties list only the Mortgage Electronic Registration Service on the Trust Deed, and MERS is not in any case the owner of the property after foreclosure. We have numerous vacant properties, and they have them all over the country, where municipalities cannot identify the parties responsible for their upkeep. Police can find no party to contact to authorize entry. When squatters move in and neighbors complain, police cannot confirm that the squatters don't belong there. When the property is neglected and becomes hazardous, there is nobody to bill for remediation when notices are ignored. Sometimes banks have evicted owners who are in default, and never followed through on the foreclosure process, leaving the evicted homeowner as the responsible party of record. Banks used every tactic in the book to avoid simply being required to disclose responsibility for real property they own or control. Of course the underlying problem is that they created a system in which the banks themselves aren't sure who owns anything anymore, but that should be their problem. Make fun of it all you want, but it's an attempt to solve a problem that is very real and urgent in some neighborhoods; if not your neighborhood, then lucky you.

What do you mean "WE have numerous vacant properties..." Sue? Does that include "YOU"?

As I tried to point out earlier, this ordinance reaches FAR beyond banks and far beyond heavily mortgaged residential single family homes. It would have applied to us adult kids when Mom & Dad took their final trip to hospital, nursing home, assisted living before the cemetery.

It doesn't take much googling of your name to discover your "community organizer" background. And "WE" are well aware how much "YOU" believe in private property and the desire of "SOME" to control every aspect of "OUR" lives.

By the way, isn't it "YOU COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS... " that arm twisted the mortgage industry to make loans to those that could never afford them?

I'll bet the recent fire that destroyed the old Thunderbird Inn on Hayden Island has something to do with this.

If a bank forecloses and kicks someone out but fails to register the change with the county then they certainly don't have any right to claim they own the property and resell it, do they..

Ms. Hagmeier, two basic problems with the proposal are that (1) it would require banks to tell the city, and thus the public, when they write to their borrower about a delinquent payment, if the letter mentions that legal action might follow, even if the bank does not start foreclosure (meaning that the public will get to know who pays slowly, even if there isn't a foreclosure), and (2) it, or the "Beneficial Change" rules to be adopted, would require lenders to trespass onto properties that they don't own in order to comply with city code.

First we get "overlay maps" for wetlands, wild life, scenic views, special plant and flora and now undefined, "unoccupied property" of all types. Each with more restrictions on property rights without adjustment to property TAXES.

Would senior citizen snowbirds be allowed to "abandon" their fully paid for homes to flee to Arizona for the rainy winter months?

But then I guess the real goal is to "occupy" someone else's property.

I see this as another avenue to reel in more cash, pay to file a fee, pay when fined, pay, pay and pay while we get less and less. The only thing we get more of is a tighter rein on our pocketbooks and in some cases a tighter noose around our necks, in the form of behavioral compliance.

Once again the city over reaches, and the laws of unintended (maybe) consequences take over.
It is too bad that we are paying these political hacks to write bad laws that have all these potential problems.
Exactly how many of these so call vacant or abandoned properties are a problem? I'll bet not that many.

ltjd: At least I have a policy of using my actual name; perhaps you're embarrassed to attach your name to your ranting. Perhaps if you did that, someone might google your name and create some fantasy about you and your opinions. I also attempt to refrain from attributing opinions to people that they have not expressed. Please argue with what I actually said, not with what your fevered imagination makes up.

If you'd rather have government not even try to address problems, well then carry on. And no, "community activists" did not arm twist the mortgage industry to make loans to those who couldn't afford them. Banks devised ways of making almost unlimited profits from the very existence of those loans, and consequently marketed them heavily and issued them as fast as they could.

I do not know whether there are problems with the ordinance as drafted. I do know that the problem it attempts to address is real. That is all.

No Sue... I just want government to provide adequate police, fire roads and schools. And having failed at delivering those services most WANT, we end up with those we don't.

There's a HUGE Army of government workers, consultants, contractors, strategic government communicators, facilitators and consensus makers that feed off government largess. They seamlessly drift in and out of government to consulting NEVER getting too far away. And YOU appear to be one of those.

Many (including myself) firmly believe we've reached a tipping point where those that ride in the wagon outnumber those that pull the wagon. And I have you pegged as a rider not a puller.

You appear to be someone that is defending this ordinance because somehow you are benefiting financially from this or related work for Northwest Ideas, LLC.

I object because I just want government (and all of their "consultants") to leave me alone... NOT pay someone to "communicate, translate jargon or strengthen the message..." for them.

Oh ya...I've also been under a governmental microscope and didn't much care for it. And I'm not a lawyer like Jack.

Unlike you, I have no financial incentive to identity myself except to point out the constant daily erosion of property rights.

I suppose I'll never be much good at, "getting grant funders to look favorably at proposals from the beginning..." as a professional like you.

"And no, "community activists" did not arm twist the mortgage industry to make loans to those who couldn't afford them"
Patently false Sue, and you know it.
People don't need to make things up, they can read your thoughts in the DailyKos. Not exactly a publication I'd care to have my name attached to but hey, whatever.
As for people who may use a pseudonym that is their business, isn't it ?
Are you making threats now to look people up ?
Rather unseemly conduct isn't it ?

Hey, Sue, your last comment is a "little near the bone" is it not?
I thought you didn't approve of name calling....or verbal insults....unless those are directed at....you?
So as a regular reader and poster on this blog...well I guess I'll just go on "playing with myself".
Oooo.....having fun now! Bye Bye!

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