In August, Springfield City Council passed a resolution requiring quarterly reports on nuisance and blighted buildings from Building Development Services officials.
At the Nov. 20 council meeting, BDS Director Brock Rowe gave the first such report, covering the first six months of 2023.
Thirteen separate codes cover dangerous, blighted and nuisance building types, and for the 181-day period, 521 separate cases were tracked. However, Rowe noted the entire abatement process can take 275 days from start to finish, allowing for notification and due process, so some began before Jan. 1.
The most common code violation was to structures built or used in violation of the building, plumbing, electrical, fuel gas, property maintenance or zoning codes, with 273 violations noted. The second most common code violation was for those substantially damaged by fire, wind or other causes, with 97 violations.
Overall, most violations were in council’s Zone 1, the northwest quadrant of the city, followed by Zone 2, the northeast quadrant.
Rowe reported the median length of time a nuisance citation was open was about 123 days, which he took as a positive sign, since that number is well below the 275 days that make up the entire process.
“There are people who are abating their issues and taking care of those blighted buildings,” Rowe said.
Statistics for the period show that of the 125 violations, 85 were rentals, 26 were owner-occupied structures and 14 were unknown. Thirty-three of the properties were vacant, according to a water-usage calculator used by the city. The structures are heavily single-family residences, Rowe said.
The report is required to identify the top 20 violators from the past five years, listed here, as named in the report, with the number of citations recorded:
The report tallied the number of properties, including those allegedly in violation and otherwise, owned by each of the top 20 citation recipients, and these totaled 1,336, with 708 in Zone 1, 298 in Zone 2, 255 in Zone 3 and 75 in Zone 4.
The report also lists the 20 addresses cited most in the last five years, which follow here with the number of violations:
Councilmember Brandon Jenson noted the main types of properties driving blight and nuisance issues in the community appear to be tenant-occupied, single-family structures that are owned by investors.
He added that the data included in the report are based solely on reports provided by city residents, since BDS relies on a complaint-driven system.
“This isn’t the true extent of the issue in our community,” Jenson said, adding that a recent housing study identified over 2,000 blighted or nuisance structures.
Rowe said when inspectors respond to a complaint, about 40% turn out to be verifiable cases of blighted or nuisance properties.
“Sixty percent of the time, we’re going out and looking at things that are not actual verified cases,” he said.
Jenson said too much staff time is being spent on non-verified cases.
“Our reliance on a complaint-based system doesn’t appear to be serving residents because of the extent of this issue that we see in our community or the city,” he said. “It’s my hope that this data is going to serve as sort of a starting point for us to consider a more targeted and proactive enforcement approach, especially against those properties that are the most serious life-safety issues.”
BDS has 13 staff members who are responsible for all land-use and zoning inspections in the city, according to Rowe.
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