City officials are bringing attention to impacts of having vacant and neglected structures around Tucson, and especially in Ward 3.
A resident in one neighborhood in Ward 3 said, Its bad enough to have a neighbor that wont keep his basic weeds under control. But there are people dealing with houses that are drug havens. Houses, burned down, run down, attracting pests and bad people. Now the City of Tucson is trying to do more to take care of that.
This week the Mayor and Council directed staff to develop ordinance changes and new procedures to speed up the process of creating effective solutions for vacant and neglected structures.
Kevin Dahl, the councilman of Ward 3, has been spearheading the pursuit for action because of the concentration of these structures within his ward.
He shared how he believes the problem stems from ownership of the properties residing out of state. He ties this to the lack of care for how the properties impact the community because they can ignore city code enforcement’s orders for clean ups.
And so we need to be tougher. We need to take them to court. We need to resolve these issues because they’re a problem for our neighborhoods. People don’t like having these structures nearby their homes. They cause problems. They’re attractive nuisances, trash piles up, they look ugly, they bring down home values nearby. So it’s something we want to resolve, said Dahl.
He shared how city resources are wasted on responding to the crime happening on the properties.
The resident of a Ward 3 neighborhood mentioned earlier in this article, who is going by “Willis,” shared her experience. Willis asked KGUN 9 On Your Side not to show her face or use her real name. She said a run-down house in her neighborhood, the reason she fears sharing her identity, has been a magnet for trouble.
There are squatters who had been occupying it. And they’ve broken down the front door, they’ve broken down the rear door. And I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I’m sure they’re doing drugs inside that house, said Willis.
Willis hopes the house gets auctioned off soon so it could either be cleaned up or knocked down. She said the current state of the property is only dragging down the neighborhood.
And the people, whoever it is, the bank, I guess owns it now. And they just aren’t keeping up with keeping the house secure. And as it attracts, people that are kind of criminals. It affects the neighbors and our quality of life, said Willis.
Another resident in the neighborhood, Kali Van Campen, said she also suspects drug deals in and around the house. She recalled two fires starting from the property, and one nearly reached her home. She said the fire spread from junk in the yard to a tree.
I had not been awake, I would be dead right now. Because my tree overlooks my bedroom. And so what I did was I called up police. They got the firemen here. They were here in three minutes. I mean the police in the fire were so amazing. And then they put the fire out in five minutes, Van Campen said.
Ward 3 Councilmember Kevin Dahl said city staff is looking at how other cities get careless absentee property owners to fix problems faster. Sometimes the leverage is when the city boards up, cleans up the property, then sues the owner to cover the cost.
We don’t go to court very often. Very seldom, we wait, we put the lien on the property and then we wait. The property will be sold eventually and we’ll get our money back. But that’s leaving money on the table. As far as I’m concerned, we’re in a housing crisis. We don’t need empty houses in our community. A family could be living in those houses if it was taken care of properly, said Dahl.
The proposed new system would also decrease the amount of inspections required by the city code enforcement crew.
City staff is turning to Phoenix as an example because, according to Dahl, their process is effective and minimizes costs.