Advocates on Tuesday urged the city council to adopt a proposal intended to reduce the burden — financial and visual — of more than 12,000 vacant and abandoned buildings in Oklahoma City.
“We drive by it every day. We look at it. We live with it,” said developer Ron Walters.
Walters asked council members to take care of the “silent majority” whose property values and quality of life suffer because they must put up with dilapidated structures in their neighborhoods.
The proposal would create a registry of vacant buildings and provide for inspections to monitor their condition. Property owners would pay fees to offset administrative and enforcement costs.
A study found 12,106 Oklahoma City buildings had been vacant six months or longer in 2012. It said those structures cost the city millions of dollars in lost revenue and put disproportionate pressure on police and fire services.
Owners who keep their homes and businesses well-maintained bear losses of $2.7 billion in property values because of blight from poorly maintained properties, the study indicated.
It has been a growing problem, with the number of long-term vacant housing units rising 25 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The cost of maintaining eyesores is low, with owners who allow buildings to deteriorate instead of putting them to productive use paying an average of just $112 per year in property taxes.
State Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, who represents District 88 on the city's north side, told the council her constituents think the registry “is a good first step.”
Several speakers questioned whether it was wise to put commercial and residential property under the same registration and enforcement scheme. Industrial property is excluded.
Ward 4 City Councilman Pete White raised the possibility of starting enforcement with residential property while issues regarding commercial property are worked out.
Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan argued for an effort to get the best possible ordinance the first time.
Tuesday's discussion came during a public hearing. Council members agreed more discussion of how to oversee vacant commercial property should take place before the ordinance comes up for final adoption in two weeks.
The study indicated legislative action would be required if the city desires other tools, such as a land bank, to more effectively deal with blighted neighborhoods.