So Mayor Jones and City Council just gave away 14 tax delinquent, blighted propertiesit recently seized as reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Break out the noisemakers and party balloons, right? Way to go City, fix those blighted properties!!!
Well actually…this is just the latest example of another fraud scheme by the City that cost taxpayers and property owners over half a million dollars in losses, and could be considered theft. It is eerily similar to the last example of a giveaway by the City’s rathole, otherwise knows as the Richmond Economic Development Authority.
Why is the City giving away properties it has seized for delinquent taxes, rather than selling them for full market value to the highest bidder at auction? Does anyone else find this ironic? Didn’t Mayor Jones just announce that he essentially maxed out the City’s credit card and needs to dip into the emergency fund for $5.8 Million just to keep the city functioning? He also proposed raising taxes across the board for items such as Meals Tax, Real Estate Tax, Personal Property Tax, and many others, just to maintain the City’s current level of subpar service and funding its schools. Hmmm, it sure sounds like that Friday night beer at Hardywood and dinner at one of Richmond’s awesome restaurants is about to get more expensive…all because of ineptitude at City Hall.
Here is an example of how the City is doing dumb, some might even argue fraudulent, things with your property. The pictured lot above doesn’t look so blighted, albeit it is admittedly a somewhat dated photograph. There is development happening on both sides of the lot in question. Must be extremely valuable as a result given the neighboring work, right? Well, the City gave the lot away to a predetermined friend for $1,750. And the somewhat more recent picture from January 2015 shows it with a coming soon sign out front already. Really??? That doesn’t add up. Think that’s an anomaly? Well, you would be wrong.
Here is a list of the tax-delinquent properties and their assessed values that were given away just this past week at City Council’s Monday Meeting. Many of these properties are in the rapidly expanding Church Hill and Union Hill neighborhoods. Most have structures on them in varying conditions of blight. But not a single one of these properties is so poor that it would go for the ridiculously low amount of $1,750 if sold as part of an open and fair process at market levels. Actually, these properties would sell for far more than what their assessed values are, as that is generally the trend across the City.
1118 North 20th St.
1333 North 27th St.
2015 Venable St.
807 North 24th St.
1100 North 23rd St.
1217 North 29th St.
824 North 24th St.
902 North 25th St.
1517 North 35th St.
2610 Houston Ave.
805 Chimborazo Blvd.
1913 3rd Ave.
1309 North 27th St.
1313 North 27th St.
Now, it bears mentioning that the properties were given away to low income housing groups, which sounds somewhat noble. But some of these beneficiaries are financially questionable in their ability to actually develop the properties. And what ties do these recipients have to Mayor Jones, the staff at Economic and Community Development and its real estate office, or to that of various City Council members?
If we can’t fund our schools, we have massive problems with fixing sidewalks, patching potholes, and collecting leaves, why are we giving away property for over a half million dollars less than it is worth? I suspect any additional monies would go a long way toward pothole repair, schoolteacher salaries, and a myriad other infrastructure projects that have no funding. And most importantly, selling properties for full market value would help us avoid putting the City into further debt and incurring interest charges.
Mayor Jones and specifically his Economic and Community Development Office real estate staff members are inept at best, and crooks at worst. City Council, you rubber stamped this giveaway with a unanimous vote. As such, you are both culpable for the ubiquitous governmental fraud and incompetence we see throughout City Hall. Please stop the insanity, and look out for the City and it’s taxpayers for once. It’s what we pay you to do.