With more than 12,000 vacant and abandoned structures within its borders, Oklahoma City has devised a rational, reasonable response. The city council said the properties must be added to a registry and subject to registration and annual renewal fees.
Naturally, this doesn't please owners of properties faced with paying the fees, but it should please those who live or work near such properties.
Abandoned buildings are an eyesore and potentially a hazard. They add little to the economy but can cost the city for police and fire protection. The registry is reasonable in that owners of vacant commercial properties have 12 months to register; a property being rehabilitated will get a waiver unless six months of vacancy passes once a building permit is issued. Residential properties must join the registry after 30 days of vacancy but get a waiver if being actively marketed for sale.
Abandoned structures with boards over the windows are unsightly. They attract vagrants and vermin. This isn't a new problem: Indeed, in 1991, when Oklahoma City had one of the weakest housing markets in the nation, an estimated one in six homes was vacant.
Reporting by The Oklahoman that year revealed that some entire housing blocks appeared to be vacant just outside affluent neighborhoods such as Heritage Hills and Crown Heights. In the one-mile-square grid between NW 23 and NW 36 and Western and Santa Fe, 9 percent of residential property was boarded, abandoned, dilapidated, being demolished or recently demolished.
Much has changed since then. Troubled neighborhoods such as the Paseo have seen some renewal. The oil bust-related downturn of the 1980s was a major cause of property abandonment. Oklahoma City is much more vibrant today, but the 12,000 figure cited above shows that the city has a lot of property not being occupied.
Right or wrong, the perception is that the city hasn't been aggressive enough in policing abandoned property. The registry seems to be a good step.