The Olympia City Council approved an ordinance establishing a vacant property registration program, a move that will create a database to identify vacant properties and address squatting on these properties by unhoused people.
At the city council meeting last night, Code Enforcement officer JW Mahone gave a brief overview of the ordinance.
According to Mahone, the city is trying to get in contact with the banks and vested owners to make necessary repairs to return properties to productive use.
"We're trying to defray some of the costs of abatement because we are spending an amount of money for these properties that surround the homelessness and causing some of the problems that we're having in these vacant properties," Mahone said.
In the initial information obtained by the Code Enforcement, Mahone said there are about 1,700 to 1,800 possible properties that could meet the criteria of vacant or abandoned properties. They evaluated those properties based on utility billings – meaning water shut-offs, those with pre-foreclosure status, and code enforcement indicators such as tall grass/weeds and broken windows.
Mahone said the vacant properties have become “attractive nuisances” in the community – squatters and illegal dump sites - without a vacant property program.
He added locating absentee owners is difficult and time-consuming.
But having such a program would make it easy for the cityto obtain direct contact with the bank, lender, or owner. The citycould quickly identify an entity or person responsible for abandoned or vacant properties.
"We have squatters. We deal with that a lot when it comes to these unoccupied properties. Not having owners in the city limits, out of state, or out of the country makes it difficult to execute a trespass order," he said.
According to Mahone, the goal of the ordinance is to share information with –Olympia police and fire departments..
He added that the citywould have quicker response times to address blight, public nuisances, hazards, and illicit activities.
The ordinance seeks to assist the city with locating owners of abandoned/vacant properties, require registration of these properties annually, have a current local representative or contract of the owner, property manager, or agency who has a vested interest in the property and maintain the property per the city's codes, laws, and ordinances.
Mahone said a property would trigger registration if it is:
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