New Orleans officials want to deal with the city’s perennial problem of blighted and tax-delinquent properties by reviving a program, dormant since the Nagin administration, to auction them to the public.
The process would deal with a backlog of properties that the city took ownership of after the owners failed to pay taxes. Right now the liquidation of these properties is not a priority at the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which is charged with unloading them.
The proposal, another layer in an already complex blight remediation program, was presented to the City Council on Friday morning by Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, City Attorney Sharonda WIlliams and Chief Financial Officer Norman Foster.
During the Nagin administration, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority awarded bundles of properties to nonprofits in a program dubbed “SOAP,” which stood for the Sale of Abandoned and Adjudicated Property. The city later created another version of the program, Donations of Abandoned and Adjudicated Property, with the unfortunate acronym “DOAP.”
The last big donation occurred in 2006, when various nonprofits across the city were awarded properties. Most have been left undeveloped to this day.
Under the new proposal, the city would contract with a private company to do the title searches and then auction them off.
According to the Department of Finance, there are about 2,100 properties, some of which are still occupied and in use, that could be sold through the program. The city took ownership after the owners failed to pay taxes and the city wasn’t able to find a buyer at tax sales.
Councilwoman Stacy Head estimated the value of these properties at about $10 million.
Council President Jackie Clarkson, who called the current process confusing, said she is anxious to see a new process in place before her time in office comes to an end. Citing her years as a real estate agent and politician, Clarkson urged the administration to make this a top priority.
Foster said it will take at least two months to write up a request for proposals for the program.
Head predicted that Orleans Parish will have even better results than neighboring Jefferson Parish. “We should be able to recover $10 million in the city, based on the model used by Jefferson Parish.”
Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said she’d like to get the program underway quickly.
“We have to make this city affordable for everyone,” she said, suggesting that this program could meet some of the pent-up demand.