By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Lawmakers intend on introducing legislation to deal with the aftermath of the state’s higher-than-average foreclosure crisis, a crisis that left many city blocks with the black eye of row after row of abandoned homes and buildings.
Gov. Bill Ritter and three fellow Democratic lawmakers announced their plans Tuesday for legislation that would speed up the sale of abandoned buildings. The process takes a minimum of four months under Colorado law because of the formal notices that must be accompanied with the proceeding.
But in cases concerning abandoned property, Ritter and his supporters would like to see that time cut in half.
“The consequences of abandoned properties is severe. They can quickly turn a family friendly neighborhood into a safety hazard for children, a magnet for crime and a drain on property values,” Ritter said at a news conference Tuesday. “This will help to protect neighborhoods, keep families safe and preserve property values for surrounding neighbors.”
Colorado was one of the hardest-hit states by the foreclosure crisis. Counties like Adams had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. Parts of Arapahoe, Denver and Jefferson counties also were listed in the top rankings for foreclosure rates in the country. Denver’s Westwood neighborhood was listed in the top five.
While efforts to provide counseling and time-outs to borrowers facing foreclosure have been successful, those who have abandoned their properties have left neighborhoods in shambles. Abandoned properties have been vandalized, turned into drug houses and left to decay.
The legislation being proposed by Ritter — along with Reps. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver — would cut the required four-month sale process for properties already in foreclosure in half to two months.
Ritter said abandoned homes would be carefully defined in the legislation so as to not increase the burden on borrowers facing foreclosure who are still attempting to resolve their crisis. The change in law would only apply to abandoned properties.
Johnston, whose office is across from the torched Holly Square Shopping Center in northeast Denver, said he has witnessed as abandoned properties have become a home for gang members selling drugs.
“What we’ve found is now we have more and more folks in these neighborhoods who are fighting hard to keep their mortgages, to pay the bills, to contribute to maintaining their neighborhoods and their communities, and what you’ve got so often is calls like the call I got from Bea … who said, ‘I’ve been working as hard as I can to pay the mortgage every month, and across the street from me is an abandoned property where the windows have been knocked out and the doors have been busted in and there’s now an open-air drug market, and as I try to improve my own property, or as my neighbor tries to sell their house, there’s no way we can do that with this eyesore in the middle of where we live,’” Johnston said of the stories he’s been hearing in his neighborhood.
Labuda echoed similar remarks.
“One or two bad homes on a block can certainly destroy a block,” she said. “This legislation will get homes more quickly occupied, and ensure that even those neighborhoods hit hardest by foreclosure remain vibrant, good places to raise a family and buy a home.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters