The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday voted to make it easier to redevelop abandoned houses, messy lots and other blighted property with long overdue tax bills.
The measure, approved unanimously, allows city-parish government to forgive back taxes and put the property out to public bid or give it to a nonprofit group to redevelop.
The process applies to so-called adjudicated properties, which often sit for years in a state of legal limbo because the taxes have been neglected so long that the bill has climbed higher than the value of the property and a tax sale attracts no interest.
The new rules approved Tuesday lay out an extensive process for attempting to notify the original owners before selling or donating property, and anyone who wants to acquire the property must provide detailed plans for redevelopment.
“You don’t just get it. You have to identify in advance what your intentions are,” said Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who proposed the measure.
There are more than 1,000 adjudicated properties in Lafayette Parish, most of those in the city of Lafayette, according to figures from Lafayette Parish Assessor Conrad Comeaux.
Many of those would be considered blighted or abandoned property.
But Boudreaux said some properties considered adjudicated might be owned by people who don’t know they owe back taxes — family members who either inherited property without knowing it or heirs who moved into the home of a deceased relative and have never received a tax bill because the paperwork has been mailed year after year to a wrong address or post office box.
“No one knocks on the door and asks who you are and what are you doing here,” Boudreaux said
The legal owner of an adjudicated property would be required to pay the tax bill to keep it, but Boudreaux said some owners likely would clear up back taxes if contacted about the issue.
“Our first objective is family redemption,” Boudreaux said. “And that is the one person who has to pay full price.”
If no owners or relatives step forward, city-parish government could then move to sell or donate the property to a third party.
Non profit groups will pay a $500 administrative fee for donated property.
“I just didn’t want it to be a free-for-all,” said Councilman Jared Bellard, who proposed the fee. “I just don’t want to give it away for free.”
Bellard initially proposed a $750 fee for nonprofits, but he trimmed the amount after Boudreaux raised concerns of an additional expense making it tough for a cash-strapped nonprofit to redevelop blighted property.
“I don’t want to create something that’s going to be preventative in nature,” Boudreaux said.
The City-Parish Council will have discretion over all property transfers and redevelopment plans.