Dallas Is Sitting On Hundreds

City of Dallas Property for Sale

This morning, the Dallas City Council reluctantly earned about $1 million for City Hall through the sale of 140 tax foreclosed properties around the city.

I say reluctant because, for months now, southern Dallas council members Tennell Atkins, Dwaine Caraway and Carolyn Davis have been angry about the way the city rids itself of these less than prime pieces of real estate.

The problem is, City Hall sells them and too often they end up in the hands of slum lords, do nothing investors, shady boarding home operators or some other drag on the neighborhood.

"We cannot just 'Grow South' and think grow south is about business and all that, '" Caraway said, referencing Mayor Mike Rawlings' much-touted plan to improve the southern side. "We still have to be concerned about the inner community, and the inner community is these houses."

Rawlings was frustrated too. For months, he said, the council has been calling on city staff to provide strategies for dealing with foreclosed properties other than just handing them to the highest bidder, hoping for the best and often getting the worst.

The city's lawyers explained, once again, that City Hall doesn't have any wiggle room on how it bids and sells the properties. They go to the highest bidder.

But there is room before the properties go up for sale, the mayor noted.

"what I’m upset about is I thought we had dealt with this three months ago. This is another three months down the road and we haven't dealt with these issues, " he told City Attorney Tom Perkins.

The council understands - or at least most of them appear to understand - the law governing bidding.

"It's very clear what we can do and what we can't do, " the mayor said. "What I'm saying is there is a much broader issue. Should we be selling the land and how should we - after we sell that land - put the right development process in place."

In other words, the city is under no obligation to just dump the land or houses. Yes, there is a cost to maintaining the properties if the city holds onto them. And there is a cost to keeping them off the tax rolls. But there is also a serious cost to communities that find themselves saddled with indifferent landlords, overcrowded and under-served "group" homes or absent investors who use the land they buy at rock bottom prices to leverage equity for some other deal.

Over and over again, the same buyers show up at the sheriffs auction for foreclosed properties. Their m.o. is well known: buy a property and sit on it as the years go by.

When those buyers show up, properties need to come off the market, Atkins said.

That might be easier said than done. One thing it's clear the city can't do is pick and choose its buyers once a property is up for bid.

As things stand, bidders are required to certify they are not chronic code violators or in debt to the city.

Nevertheless, Perkins promised to come back to the council with better options for handling tax foreclosed properties.

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