KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As foreclosures rise, cities are trying to figure out who owns vacant properties.
Kansas City thought it had a solution, but Call for Action found it's not working as planned.
The city created a database to track foreclosures, but it's not tracking many homes because the new owners are not playing by the rules.
Liia Hakk has lived in her Waldo home for 20 years. As foreclosures flood her neighborhood, Hakk wonders if it's worth it to stay.
"My friends keep telling me to move," Hakk said.
In the last few months, seven neighbors have moved out in a two-block area leaving behind empty homes and a trail of trash.
Data we analyzed shows it's a problem in blocks all over Kansas City.
In Sean Clipsham's neighborhood near 29th and Paseo, we found five foreclosures in a three-block area.
"I think the properties set a tone for the neighborhood. There's a sense nobody can do anything to improve the neighborhood when a property starts getting let go," Clipsham said.
Kansas City passed an ordinance to find out who owns the thousands of vacant and foreclosed properties.
Starting in May, any property that forecloses or ends up vacant must be registered with the city
"I didn't realize that there was actually a database," Clipsham said.
"I wasn't aware there was such a database," Hakk said.
The database went online August first. That's the same time the city began issuing fines for owners who didn't register.
The database didn't work for several weeks in August. It's back up and running now, but we found there are lots of fines to hand out that could net the city big bucks.
We spent more than four weeks looking over the numbers in the city database with those provided by RealtyTrac. It's an online company tracking foreclosures
Since May 1st, RealtyTrac lists 817 foreclosures that we didn't find in the city database. Of all the foreclosures we analyzed, the database is missing 79 percent of them.
"We don't have the compliance rate as high as we would like it to be," John Parks said.
As code enforcement supervisor, Parks sees the blight foreclosure brings to a neighborhood.
The database was supposed to make it easier for Parks to track down property owners, but doing analysis like Call for Action did isn't a city priority right now.
His 10 inspectors can't even keep up with pressing code violations.
"The caseload is not manageable," Parks said.
The number of code violations is two-thousand cases higher than last year, yet there's the same amount of staff.
"With the budget crisis we just haven't been able to add additional staff to help," Parks said.
So unregistered owners get a free pass until the property gets the inspectors attention because of a code violation. That's when unregistered properties are being fined.
"If the neighborhood is turning into a slum, maybe it's better to consider moving," Hakk said.
It's difficult to get away from the problem. Kansas City has been hit hard because of subprime loans in low-income areas.
The foreclosure mess is also a problem in Kansas City, Kansas, and Eastern Jackson County. Economists say your neighborhood may be next.
"I can see the foreclosure problem spreading out," Senior Economist Kelly Edmiston said. Edmiston has been tracking foreclosures for 3 years with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
He says he's seeing rates spike in high income areas.
"Surprisingly in the central part of Lee's Summit," Edmiston said. "We're seeing some foreclosure activity in Merriam and parts of Lenexa near Interstate 35 going toward Olathe."
Job loss and a decrease in property values are to blame. One foreclosure is enough to start a downward spiral that leaves cities and neighbors to find solutions before entire neighborhoods are wiped out.
Fines ranging from $50 to $500 can be assessed for not registering your foreclosed property on time.
Join us Monday during all our newscasts to get the help you need to avoid foreclosure. Call 816-932-HELP starting at 6 a.m.
You'll be asked a few questions about your hardship. It's helpful to have your loan paperwork in front of you when you make the call Monday.
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