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Kansas City, Kansas rolling out new registry to track down negligent property owners

Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 18, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas is working on a new registry that will help officials track down negligent property owners and have a better understanding of how many blighted properties are in the county. 

Tiberius Laughlin, UG's general services director, said that a home at 10th Street and Quindaro Boulevard is just one of thousands of vacant properties in KCK. 

"This house has changed hands three times that we know of," Laughlin said. 

The taxes on the house haven't been paid since 2005, totaling more than $10,000. 

It's one of the many houses whose owner the UG can't track down. 

Up until a few months ago, the UG would send code enforcement to investigate complaints, which officials said wastes time and money. Boarding up a house of that size, for example, would cost up to $2,500. 

Now, the UG is partnering with a company, ProChamps, to roll out a new registry that will help officials find the negligent owners and hold them accountable. 

"If you don't register, the fines go up. But you also have to submit a plan about what you're going to do with your vacant property. Because your neighbors didn't sign up to have this as their neighbor," Laughlin said. 

The registry is part of KCK's five-year plan to address blighted buildings and get them in the hands of someone willing to make improvements. 

The house on Quindaro went into the tax sale in 2009, but no one bought it, leaving it in limbo. Properties that do not sell in the tax sale will be funneled into the KCK's land bank, which was started in 2016 as part of the SOAR program, which stands for Stabilization, Occupation and Revitalization. Rehabbers and interested buyers will then fix the place up. 

If a property has too many structural issues, it will be demolished, but that's not what the UG wants to do. 

A property in the 600 block of Elizabeth Avenue in Strawberry Hill was recently renovated and sold for $106,500 in a low-value neighborhood that usually sees more foreclosures than anything. 

Christin Owens' family lives next to the Quindaro house. 

"This is one of the houses that is an eyesore. Kind of embarrassing to have it sit right across the street from our location. We're trying to make this area better," Owens said. 

It's a historical neighborhood, and Laughlin said many of the homes have great bones. 

Owens has lived in the Quindaro neighborhood his whole life and said he's ready for change. 

"I believe in this city. You know, just with everything that's happened out in the Legends, we're just waiting for it to kind of trickle down on this side of town," Owens said. 

Laughlin said with all of these efforts, they are improving neighborhoods while making money. 

"We are making markets where there were no markets, and we're doing it without spending a dime of taxpayer money," Laughlin said. 

ProChamps doesn't charge the UG to work together. A property owner would pay a $200 registration fee, which the UG and ProChamps would split. 

Laughlin said the UG has not received any additional funding to roll out the registry. 

The UG already had 22 departments that touched land in some way and also had four different departments that would work on boarding homes. Laughlin said the UG pooled the already abundant resources and organized, which is how it was able to partner with ProChamps. 

The UG is hoping the registry roll-out will finish in November. Until then, when people call in to complain about vacant properties, any action will be put on hold. 

Since May, ProChamps has identified 450 properties that the banks said didn't exist, Laughlin said. 

In 2017, a bill moved through the Kansas legislature that, if passed, would speed up the process to deal with abandoned properties, but it died in committee. As of now, a new form of the bill has not been introduced.