Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, July 28, 2014

Registry of vacant and abandoned homes for Plainfield?

This abandoned property on East 6th Street is an eyesore
on a block that has been otherwise totally refurbished.

Would a registry of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed homes help Plainfield get a better handle on this problem?

There's not a neighborhood in the city that is without a vacant, abandoned or foreclosed home. You can often spot them with boarded windows, but sometimes the banks don't board them up -- but leave the yards for long periods without having the grass cut.

Just between 8th Street and Randolph Road on Arlington/Kenyon, there are three properties that can be spotted.

Sometimes it's not clear whether a home is in foreclosure. Take 1401 Chetwynd, for example. This tidy little ranch was the home of one of Plainfield's grand dames, Miss Peggy Thomas, niece of an early Plainfield mayor and herself the founding secretary of the Plainfield Symphony as a teenager in 1919.

The discreet and impeccable little home came on the market several years ago after Miss Thomas died with no close family.

It was bought and its new owners removed all the landscaping and showed every sign of a major makeover. Then work stopped, the yard became overgrown and the house appeared abandoned -- much to the dismay and annoyance of neighbors.

What can be done?

Several communities in South Jersey have fought back -- Cherry Hill, Paulsboro and Westwood among them. Now, Woodbury is proposing to join the movement with an ordinance that is under consideration (see South Jersey Times story here).

The proposed ordinance would compel owners of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties to pay an annual fee of $1,000 and be put on a registry maintained by the municipality.

What I think is potentially helpful is that such an ordinance could generate a registry that the city could make public -- thereby enlisting the entire community in keeping an eye on the problem.

As things stand now, we only hear something if a neighbor makes a fuss, or if the DPW goes in to cut the grass and there is a resolution placing a lien on the property that comes before the Council.

The last time there was an effort to inventory vacant and abandoned properties was under the administration of Mayor Al McWilliams, when a team of Rutgers students conducted a survey and made a list of 148 properties.

I am sure that list would be dwarfed today, with hundreds of homes in foreclosure as a result of the burst real estate bubble of the early 2000s.

What do you think -- would a registry of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties be useful in Plainfield?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

You should visit Belvidere Ave. The house went on fire 1 year ago and it stands "as is".
Plus 2 other abandoned properties all within a 2 block radius.

Anonymous said...

Municipalities should enforce property maintenance codes with appropriate fines, as the law now permits, and not create additional bureaucracy and revenue source. Will an extra fee accomplish something maintenance codes can't? Besides, an "abandoned" house is still assessed property taxes, so it pays its way.

Anonymous said...

The people will not pay $1,000 maybe $100.00. If you can not pay a mortgage how are they going to pay a fee? The banks name does not come to the tax office until after the sheriff's sale. The banks need to work with local real estate offices to help maintain the properties and not just one out of state. This would solve a lot of the problems.

Anonymous said...

If the property taxes and PMUA bill were not so high we would be able to keep our homes in Plainfield !

Ron said...

Drive by 1401 chetwynd now. They just covered up the old brick

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that we need to do
this as concerned citizens. I
have a house on my street that has
been abandoned for over 5 years.
How can we make the owner take
responsibility? The paint on the house is peeling, the front door is off its hinges, trash indoors, screens fallen off the windows, etc. It is a bad eye score on
Norwood Avenue. The house is 41 Norwood Avenue (Black and white).
My name is Geraldine Agurs.

Anonymous said...

By posting this list to the public,
you would also be giving this information to vandals and metal scrappers. I have seen what they do in my neighborhood alone. Something to think about...

Anonymous said...

By allowing public access to the list, you also allow that list to be viewed by vandals and metal scrappers. These people have done a lot of damage to some of the homes in my neighborhood. 'Just saying "Be careful."

Anonymous said...

Aren't there ordinances on the books already that address this?

Anonymous said...

This week the brick and wood sided ranch house on Chetwynd Avenue got a stucco exterior. Work trucks are there on a daily basis now.
I wonder why the neighbors across from the abandoned house on the North West corner of Prospect at Woodland allow the house to have long grass?
If just a few people would step up and become involved to enforce codes, we'd have a much better looking neighborhood. I cannot do it full time! It effects all our property values!

Anonymous said...

All that does is create a nice easy lost of which homes to break into.

revjermo said...

Plenty more can be done in Plainfield. During the previous Administration, Plainfield was invited and participated in a 'Community Leadership Institute' to train cities on how to deal with abandoned/problem properties. See -
Plainfield representatives who attended the training were: Oscar Turk (now retired), Audrey Counts (now Director of Inspections), Louis Hurd, and myself. As you note, many other cities and towns are taking aggressive action. New Jersey’s Abandoned Property Rehabilitation Act (APRA), enacted in early 2004, gave municipalities new powers for dealing with abandoned properties, including “spot blight” eminent domain power for an individual building, accelerated foreclosure of tax liens and the ability to become an “entity in possession” of an abandoned property. Many towns and cities in New Jersey (such as Jersey City) started using aggressive strategies to deal with their problem properties, and passage of the state’s pioneering creditor responsibility law in 2010 gave them additional tools. The issue of abandoned properties has since taken on greater urgency in the context of the foreclosure crisis precipitated by the 2008 collapse of the housing market.
In other words, to your question - where there is a will, there is a way. Registry is certainly possible if there's exists the will.