Fifteen property sales were approved by Springfield City Council at its regular meeting Monday night.
The parcels all were acquired through the city’s dangerous building program. The Department of Building Development Services paid to demolish the houses on the properties and then declared them surplus property and put them up for public bid.
The separate ordinances were approved in a group under council’s consent agenda by a 9-0 vote, but prior to the voting, Councilperson Richard Ollis raised some concerns.
“My main concern here is that we just tore down, right, a home on these properties,” he said. “So, we’re getting rid of a derelict property, and I’m just wondering how we can do our best to make sure we don’t just perpetuate another problem from happening.”
Ollis said it is important that new construction in the neighborhoods be appropriate for the setting – that it fit, architecturally and otherwise.
“Is there a way that we can be more strategic about how we go about redeploying these assets that the city has acquired so that we can make sure that we’re to the best of our ability putting something back in the neighborhood that’s going to be positive?” he asked.
Deputy City Manager Collin Quigley said properties are sold to the highest bidder, and if a sale fails after two attempts, the price is reduced. Properties can then be sold at a discounted rate or else donated to affordable housing organizations.
“We have a number of fantastic affordable housing providers that have built homes and received properties for $500 – and it’s impressive what they’re able to accomplish and what they’re able to do with the properties,” Quigley said.
He noted property will not be sold to anyone who is in arrears in taxes or owes the city money, but otherwise the city follows ordinances, the charter and an administrative memo that make property equally available to any bidder.
Quigley said the intent of acquiring property through the dangerous building program is to clean up the site.
“We’re not trying to be the property owner,” he said. “We ultimately do end up owning some properties; the goal is to get the property back in productive use.”
City Manager Jason Gage agreed that the city does not want to be the property owner.
“There’s not a reason to hold on to properties for too long,” he said. “It keeps them off the tax rolls and it adds cost.”
He said the process is following an approach dictated by prior council direction, though council may revisit that direction at any time to add requirements for new construction on the sites.
“It’s a matter of whether or not that guidance adds too much to the cost, given the potential to be upside-down in some of the locations, if we still get bidders or we get no bidders in that case,” Gage said.
Ollis suggested incorporating recommendations provided by consultants to Forward SGF, the city’s forthcoming comprehensive plan to lead it through the year 2040, into the process. He asked council to consider “how we can utilize things that the city does have control over to incent the type of construction that everybody wants in these neighborhoods.”
Gage replied that it is a good time to look holistically at that idea.
The sales approved by council represented a year’s worth of surplus properties, Quigley explained. Typically, sales occur in August and February, but the last two rounds were skipped out of fear of a lack of buyers, he said.
The city notifies the neighborhood associations of each property, plus surrounding property owners. The properties to be sold are posted on the city’s website, and an opt-in list of interested buyers also is emailed.
The bids are submitted under seal, and there is a time-stamped opening, Quigley said. The city reviews the bids to make sure they are suitable, that buyers are eligible and that bids exceed the advertised minimum, and then the highest bidder is awarded the property.
The following property sales were approved by council Monday; listed are property addresses, buyers and successful bid amounts:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May the all-items inflation index surged 8.6% over the past year, the highest increase since 1981.