Portland to start foreclosing on “zombie houses”

 

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No one can say exactly how many properties in Portland have sunk to the status of the now-boarded-up home at 7926 SE 75th: vacant, abandoned by owners, unclaimed by banks, and attracting problems.

They’re called “zombie houses,” or “vacant and distressed properties” in the parlance of city staff. Either way, they’re not available for legal habitation in a white-hot housing market that’s trying to add thousands of new homes as soon as possible. Now the City of Portland says it’s time to reanimate the dead.

Mayor Charlie Hales’ office is proposing the city dust off a foreclosure process that hasn’t been used in more than four decades, snatching homes away from owners who’ve abandoned them. Another proposal would place zombie homes in the hands of local housing nonprofits, to be fixed up and put back into use.

“We’re in a housing crisis in which we have unhoused people and people desperate to stay in the housing market,” Hales said at a work session on the proposals Tuesday. “So, what a disconnect: We have houses that are zombie houses, which are an enormous blight on their neighborhoods.”

The initiative is the latest housing proposal from the mayor, who earlier this year saw a more unique idea for reining in Portland’s housing market, a $25,000 demolition tax on Portland homes, fail amid widespread outcry.

This one’s not so controversial—and far less novel. In recent decades, cities around the country have established formal programs to help refurbish vacant properties that have become eyesores or worse. Baltimore, San Diego, Philadelphia, and many others have programs in place. Portland, despite having tools on the books that can combat the issue, hasn’t had a comprehensive effort.

There’s no easy way to identify zombie homes as they sprout up. And it’s often not until things get really bad that someone calls the city.

For the whole story, check out the Portland Mercury’s website here.

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