Councilmember Silverman’s Vacant Property Reform Bill Unanimously Passes First Council Vote

Today, the D.C. Council took the first of two votes to strengthen the District’s approach to vacant and blighted properties, unanimously approving the Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment Act of 2016 at its regularly scheduled legislative meeting.

The legislation, which was introduced by Councilmember Elissa Silverman (At-Large, Independent) and co-introduced by nine colleagues, reforms the way the District government deals with vacant properties across the city. Specifically, it would reduce the maximum amount of time a vacant property can qualify for an exemption from higher vacancy tax rates and closes a loophole that allows continuous renewal of construction permits to qualify for tax exemptions. It would also require owners of vacant properties to prove they are no longer subject to the higher tax rates, rather than placing the responsibility on inspectors from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to re-inspect them every six months. The most recent report from DCRA indicates that there are nearly 1,300 properties designated as vacant or blighted in the District.

“We need to get these properties back into use so that more residents can be housed and our neighborhoods can flourish. Vacant and blighted lots are frequently unsafe and unsanitary, causing further problems for our residents, our firefighters, our police officers, and the DCRA employees who have to inspect and clean them,” said Silverman. “I am pleased to see the Council take this important step forward to remedy these blights on our communities. I look forward to continuing to work with DCRA Director Melinda Bolling to restore these residential properties to a usable condition—an effort that will help find all of our residents a safe place to sleep at night.”

Silverman thanked Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who chairs the Council’s Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, for moving expeditiously on the legislation. She also thanked her at-large colleague Robert White, who joined the Council after the bill was introduced and discussed at a hearing, for working on an improvement to the bill to ensure that the District judiciously enforces regulations against bad actors without inadvertently targeting homeowners who have encountered delays through no fault of their own.

The final vote on the legislation is expected to occur at an additional legislative meeting on November 15.