Our Housing Committee meeting on June 14th focused on Tax Delinquent Property within the City of Middletown. According to the Butler County Auditor, there are 1276 parcels in Middletown which are subject to potential tax foreclosure for failure to timely pay property taxes. The map looks like this….
Those 1276 parcels owe a collective $6,189,484.00 in delinquent property taxes. Of that almost $6.2 million dollars, $4.5 million is owed to the Middletown City school district, almost $600,000 is owed to the City, $744,000 is owed to Butler County, and $282,000 is owed to other entities (Library, Miami Valley Conservancy, etc.).
Along with the $6.2 million in property taxes, 374 of those parcels have past due water bills totally $49,800.00. 137 parcels have filed city income tax returns but have not paid their balances of $67,000.00. Another 304 parcels have filed no city income tax returns for the past two years. To give you an idea of what that means to the city, if each of those houses had the city’s median household income of $36,898 and filed and paid their income taxes, the city would have received another $392,595.00 in income tax. My guess is that these addresses do not make the median household income, but you see the potential effect on revenues.
In the past, the City has at times been criticized for “picking on” minorities and the poor. My question to the committee was “if these folks are delinquent on property taxes, delinquent on water bills, and many haven’t filed or paid city income tax, do you think 1) that they will ever be able to catch up? and 2) that their property is compliant with the property maintenance code?”
The answer in most cases is no.
My next question to the committee was that, given your valid concerns for the poor and minority residents of the city, and given that residents want their streets paved and quality of life restored to the city, what is the role of city government in dealing with these tax delinquent properties? If the City requests tax foreclosure on these parcels, are we “picking on” the poor and minorities or are we acting in the best overall interest of the city as a whole?
Said another way, if the owners of these properties can never catch up, are we ready as a community to work on getting them out of those properties and putting the houses back into the hands of people who can pay their taxes and maintain the property? That doesn’t necessarily mean driving poor people out of the city, but it would mean helping them out of their current situation and into housing that they can actually afford.
Given the high number of tax delinquent properties, we all agreed that there would be a lot of properties available for foreclosure that wouldn’t impact residents. If there is an out of town landlord who is collecting rent but not maintaining the property or paying taxes, shouldn’t we get them out of control of the property? If the property is vacant and/or abandoned, we should probably start the process to get that house freed up for a more productive use. If the parcel is just vacant land, no occupying homeowner or renter would be hurt by the tax foreclosure.
At some point, we’ll have to deal with homeowners who cannot afford to maintain the house that they own. As part of this overall policy, we’ll have to develop tools to help people transition from housing that they cannot afford to hopefully better housing that they can afford.
It’s a long hard process and we are now earnestly at work. As always, if you wish to see the meeting or the materials that we are reviewing for discussion, you can view everything at the link below.