Hennepin County Speeds Demolition of Problem Properties

Hennepin County commissioners voted last to allocate up to $1.25 million to the City of Minneapolis to speed demolition of at least 50 Twin Cities houses. The actions comes as concerns rise that some Minneapolis neighborhoods may become so scarred by boarded up and vacant houses that they may not bounce back,

For example, northern Minneapolis has 544 of the 925 boarded and vacant houses listed within the city. The effects were cited on streets such as the 2900 block of Dupont Avenue N., where several houses were burned and boarded up after they were foreclosed on or abandoned. Minneapolis commissioners worry that other residents in the area will leave, resulting in even more blighted and vacant homes.

County officials will meet with their Minneapolis counterparts to negotiate an agreement that should allow the city to possibly double the number of houses it can tear down this year after they've been declared nuisance properties. Hennepin County evaluates properties for rehabilitation and chooses removal when area livability and safety can be improved with its destruction. At least 50 houses are to be demolished by the end of the year, with plans for the sites to be cleared and improved by next June.

The measure passed 6 to 1, with Linda Koblick voting no. Koblick’s refusal argued that the plan should have been reviewed by board committees and faced public feedback before a vote was taken. She said that taxes paid by people all over the county shouldn't be earmarked just for a single city when there may be suburban properties that need attention as well.

Other commissioners voted for the measure anyway, arguing that the sheer magnitude of Minneapolis' problem properties warrant action. An example of why this measure was introduced can be found at 2914 Dupone Ave N. A fire broke out at the vacant house at this location, but the city could not use its emergency powers to pull down the structure because it had not been damaged structurally. However, it had been damaged enough that it could not be rehabilitated.

Having the building demolished requires a long process under a city ordinance which is designed to protect the owner's property rights while still giving the city the power to remove nuisance property. The intersection where it lies connects four blocks that had averaged six foreclosures per block during a two-year period through March of this year. As more blighted and vacant properties appear in the area, residents are likely to move, causing even more problems. If the cycle perpetuates, the area may not recover!

The city now finances its property demolitions through a new revolving fund that also pays for boarded-building enforcement staff and other nuisance abatements, such as cutting of tall grass. Destruction of these properties also isn’t the only option. Most of the Minneapolis properties that are boarded and vacant will be rehabilitated instead.

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