Updated: 08/18/2014 10:21 PM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough
If you have a vacant home in your neighborhood, you probably know it.
Although the number of vacant homes has been steadily decreasing in the metro since the recession, there are still twice as many in St. Paul than its larger neighbor, Minneapolis.
Research as a graduate student brought Ben Greiling to a lot of empty buildings that used to be someone's home.
“Our neighborhood is suffering because of these properties that are just sitting," he said.
There are 1,082 vacancies in St. Paul. Minneapolis has nearly 600.
"It costs everybody when a property is vacant and it hurts property values in the neighborhood," said University of St. Thomas Professor Dr. Tom Musil.
To cover the costs related to maintaining abandoned properties, both cities charge property owners an annual fee. And the fees are dramatically different. In St. Paul, it's $1,400. For Minneapolis it's significantly more at $7,000.
Greiling believes if St. Paul increased the property fee things would change, "it can only help I just think seeing a $5-6,000 annual fee is going to motivate the property owner to do something with their property.”
The options qwould be to renovate or re-sell it. However, real estate expert Dr. Tom Musil of the University of St. Thomas said, "I don't agree it’s going to get the desired result I think you're going to have people walk away from these fee's perhaps even compound the problem."
Greiling shared the study with St. Paul City Council member Kathy Lantry, who called his study inaccurate.
The city does need money to cover a huge budget shortfall. Recently, Mayor Chris Coleman proposed a property tax levy increase and called for new revenue. Greiling would rather have vacant building fees go up than his taxes, "I think it's a very simple way to benefit so many people.
Council member Lantry said although St. Paul charges a lower fee up front, it bills property owners each time it needs maintenance like mowing the lawn, police or fire calls and vandalism cleanup.
Minneapolis charges a summary abatement fee up front, which includes charges for those maintenance services whether needed or not, thus the $7,000 fee.