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City of Janesville may buy delinquent properties

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 25, 2009
— Janesville’s city staff proposes the city buy tax-foreclosed properties in targeted areas at the cost of the delinquent property taxes.

The council will consider the suggested purchases of three such properties in the Fourth Ward at its 7 p.m. council meeting on Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.


The three homes are part of a recent acceleration by the city in its mission to buy bad homes in vulnerable neighborhoods and either rehabilitate them or tear them down. Two are described as being historically significant.


In less than a year, the city has bought at least four homes with federal stimulus money, one with parkland money, one with tax increment financing money and another with federal block grant money.


The suggested purchases at 305 S. Pearl St., 203 Linn St., and 903 McKinley St. would be funded by tax increment financing districts. Cities are allowed to use money from TIFs to revitalize nearby residential areas.


“Acquiring these properties for blight elimination or rehabilitation purposes is consistent with city plans and recent city efforts to invest in the improvement of our historical central city neighborhoods,” Jennifer Petruzzello, neighborhood services director, said.


The city would buy the three properties for a total of $18,597, plus $1,200 in closing costs. The city would get $3,797 back from the county for its share of delinquent taxes. The properties have been delinquent since 2005.


Each year, Rock County forecloses on properties that are delinquent. The city has first crack at buying the properties before they go to public auction.


The city is required to pay the price equal to the delinquent taxes, special assessments and charges, interest and closing costs.


Staff suggests that one of the properties be demolished and the other two sold with the caveat that they remain owner-occupied.


Staff has not been able to inspect the properties because the county has just given notices to vacate to the people living in two of them.


The council will be asked to earmark another $180,000 to fix two of the properties.


“That is the big question for the city council to decide,” Petruzzello said. “Is the $90,000 worth it? My feeling is we have stated within our plans and goals to increase owner-occupied (residences) and recognize the historic value of our residential structures within those neighborhoods. I think in this economic environment, it is unlikely the private sector would purchase those two properties and maintain them and preserve the historic structures.”


“This is an opportunity to acquire three properties (at a fairly low price) that are within our plan for improving the neighborhood,” she said.


If the council decides the eventual repair bill is too high, the homes could later be demolished, she said.


The properties likely would continue to be rented if they go to public auction, Petruzzello said.


Two of the homes are historically significant properties within the Fourth Ward and the city is trying to at least maintain and preserve the exterior of those properties, she said.


She included descriptions on the homes in a memo to the council:


-- 305 S. Pearl St. is a vacant single-family home built about 1880. It is 822 square feet and is one story with three bedrooms and a bath. The property is next to the railroad tracks and is zoned M-4, central general industrial. Staff recommends the structure be demolished at a cost of $8,500. The city then could either sell the land to neighbors or keep it a vacant parcel.


-- 203 Linn St. is an 1855 Greek Revival single-family rental property. The 1,548 square-foot, two-story property has three bedrooms and a bath. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing structure within the Fourth Ward. The property is listed on assessor’s records as being in poor condition.


-- 903 McKinley St. is an 1855 Greek Revival home and is also a contributing structure in the district. The single-family rental property is 1,700 square feet and has three bedrooms and a bath. It is listed as being in poor to average condition on assessor’s records.



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