Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Audit: City Property Tax Division Doing Well, Room for Improvement

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb's latest audit focuses on the Department of Finance, Real Estate Division, Property Acquisition and Disposition. The department functions as the enforcement arm for property taxes in Pittsburgh, which includes maintaining and selling property. If property taxes are delinquent for a year, the site is eligible for take over by the city. In June 2010, 20,732 properties were listed as tax delinquent and during the audit period, Pittsburgh had 3,108 properties that were eligible for sale. Lamb says the city is doing a good job of selling properties that are marketable, but falls short when it comes to maintaining properties that aren't as appealing. He acknowledges that maintaining all those properties is not a small task, "and that's one of the reasons we created the Redd Up Crew...and what we're seeing is that the Redd Up Crew is not really spreading itself across the city." Lamb says there are uses for abandoned property and vacant lots, "like urban farming, community gardens - these properties are ripe for that kind of opportunity." He says the city should be offering those properties to the community or trying to lease them. Neighborhoods that are particularly impacted by abandoned or tax delinquent properties include: Larimer, Garfield, Perry South, Homewood North and South, Beltzhoover, Hazelwood, Middle Hill and California-Kirkbride.

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