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Over 3,000 vacant or blighted DC properties identified, changes possibly coming to DCRA

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 1 day ago Anna-Lysa Gayle
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Vacant properties can be found all across the District, with neighbors describing the buildings as eyesores and dumping sites.

“DCRA says there are over 3,000 properties in the city,” said Chairman Phil Mendelson.

The leader of the city council believes that is unacceptable, considering that homelessness in D.C. is two times the national average.

“The homelessness is fueled by the affordability problem that we have,” he said.

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Mendelson is calling on the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to reduce the number of vacant/blighted homes across the city, by better enforcing the city’s current laws.

“This is not about collecting more money to the city, this is about using our tax structure as financial pressure on property owners, who are letting their properties sit vacant for years,” he said.

He says vacant buildings like the 36 unit apartment building, in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, aren’t being taxed as much as they could be.

Under D.C. law, blighted properties should be charged twice as much for taxes.

“(Some properties are) being taxed as vacant, it should be taxed as blighted,” he said.

The city council is now trying to divide DCRA into two separate departments, under an agency known as The Department of Buildings. The funding was added to the 2022 budget. 

“The mayor has not been supportive, the mayor says it’s going to cost a lot of money, so we have to fund it and we’re going to fund it,” he said. “That means beginning in the fall, the mayor will have no choice, but to begin the process.”

The budget, which includes the money for the department of buildings, is up for a second vote on August 3rd.

Statement from DCRA on vacant properties:

“The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has currently validated more than 3000 properties in the District as either vacant or blighted, which requires the property owners to pay a higher tax amount. DCRA’s Vacant Building Administration is a complaint-based program. When residents, businesses and other stakeholders report a suspected vacant property, the agency investigates the property and makes a determination as to the property’s correct status. In Fiscal Year 2020, DCRA performed more than 7,900 vacant building inspections throughout the District. DCRA also significantly reduced its vacant property complaint response time from 38 days to approximately 17 business days. Additionally, in Fiscal Year 2020, DCRA conducted over 5,000 illegal construction inspections, and over 17,000 housing inspections throughout the District.”

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