Be warned, vacant property owners: That could be changing soon -- for both residential and commercial property owners.
The Times has been sent information from an informed reader regarding LB256, a bill pending at the Nebraska Legislature that would crack down on the problem of vacant properties.
The bill, offered by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, was heard earlier this week by the Urban Affairs Committee. The legislation "would provide communities an additional tool to address problem properties and housing shortages." According to Sen. Briese, "existing nuisance ordinances have limited application for vacant properties, which can hinder economic growth and are a concern for many small communities."
Under LB256, a municipality could adopt an ordinance that would allow it to:
- identify and register vacant properties;
- collect fees;
- plan for rehabilitation of vacant properties; and
- encourage occupancy.
If adopted, a vacant property registration ordinance would require registration of a property vacant for 180 days or longer. An initial registration fee of no more than $250 for a residential property and $1,000 for a commercial property would be assessed. Supplemental fees would be allowed and exemptions to the fee requirement could be provided. Unpaid registration fees and fines would become a lien on the applicable property upon notice to the county.
Greg Ptacek, economic development director for the city of Neligh, testified in support of the bill. Approximately 10% of Neligh’s housing stock currently sits vacant, he said, which creates a housing crunch in the small community. The fees and fines associated with a vacant property ordinance could provide a necessary financial incentive to property owners in Neligh and other municipalities across the state, he said. “If we were to take 5% of those houses and put them back on the market … we would have about 4,000 [more] homes in Nebraska,” Ptacek said.
Lynn Rex of the League of Nebraska Municipalities also testified in support of the bill. She said, the bill would give small and medium-sized communities more ways to encourage owners of problem properties to cooperate with city government and find solutions. “Financial pressure does work when you’re trying to deal with vacant properties,” Rex said.
No action has yet been taken on the bill, aside from the hearing, but if you like what you hear, call or send and e-mail to your state senator (Sen. Laura Ebke if you live in Saline County) and ask them to support the bill.