Yes, arrest owners of KC's blighted houses
The Kansas City Star
Living next door to a blighted house with broken windows, foot-tall weeds and peeling paint in Kansas City can be financially draining — and exasperating.
Property values take a hit while the blood pressure of responsible owners rises as they deal with City Hall’s bureaucracy, trying to get someone to take these code violations seriously.
Thousands upon thousands of these cases are on the city’s books, often because people won’t appear in housing court, because they game the system to get extension after extension to take action, because they can’t afford to make the fixes or for a host of other reasons.
Now the city staff has added a get-tough approach that makes sense — arresting offenders.
The city’s plan is methodical: Send out warning letters to property owners with maintenance code violations. Try to work with these owners to get something done. And if those steps don’t prompt results, get tough. Police now are arresting some of those with the most warrants issued against them.
The city wants to hold scofflaws accountable for the problems they cause their neighbors, says Mike Schumacher, an assistant city manager. That’s a positive, necessary attitude.
If the tactic works in the long term, it would result in more and faster home repairs or, in some cases, the demolition of structures too far gone to save.
A sign that City Hall is capable of acting on behalf of responsible homeowners and landlords would also build confidence among residents.
Finally, it also could be another signal that Mayor Sly James’ administration is focusing on improving basic services for neighborhoods, as it has promised. In recent weeks the mayor has announced more spending for road resurfacing projects. On Wednesday it announced the demolition of 1,000-plus dangerous buildings in the next two years.
As we’ve seen before, the city has a tendency to rev up a new policy on blighted property, and then lose interest. That should not happen this time. It won’t if James, City Council members and the city staff properly make the initiative a high priority.