The number of vacant properties in the city has dropped by roughly two-thirds in the past few years.
In 2013, the Board of Aldermen approved a long-debated ordinance requiring owners to register vacant properties and then maintain them to the satisfaction of the city building inspector. City building inspector Robert Tanner said Friday that the number of buildings on the registry had dropped in the past four years from 130 to about 40.
“Most of them sat for two to three years before they went to auction or were sold,” he said.
Tanner said 20 of the houses came off the registry by way of a program in which the city took possession of properties that nobody bid on during tax sales and then sold them at a cut rate to buyers who agreed to renovate them.
“They’re all sold now except 41 Baxter St.,” he said, referring to the most recently acquired house, which was damaged in a fire while the city pursued eviction proceedings against the former owner. “We’re waiting for a demo to tear that down — it’s cheaper than to fix it. I’m just waiting for our contractors to send us bids. We have no more houses.”
Tanner said it was a day he had not been sure he would see, and that he was glad to no longer have to act as a property manager.
“We’re on the other way out now,” he said. “I think it’s behind us. It’s good for the city, for sure.”
Housing is a major part of the duties of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority. Executive Director Brennan Duffy, who helped develop the vacant properties ordinance, said he was not aware of the numbers regarding vacants and they were better than he would have guessed.
“That’s a great number,” he said. “I would say it’s indicative of a positive change in the economy over the last few years. Some of it could probably be attributed to the work of Project VISION and the RRA and NeighborWorks.”
The three organizations he listed have spent several years on revitalization projects in the Northwest Neighborhood. He said the vacant property ordinance also likely contributed to the shift.
“That probably had some influence on people who hadn’t had a negative impact on leaving properties vacant indefinitely,” he said.
Duffy said he was unsure what the city’s target should be for the number of vacants at any one time, but it seemed like 40 was in a good range.
“If we could get down to maybe a dozen,” Mayor David Allaire said.”There’s going to be some turnover. ... I don’t know if that helps the real estate people to have a certain supply that are vacant. ... The optimum would be zero, but that’s never going to happen.”
Allaire also said that it could take some time for the city to refocus some of its energies away from vacant properties and toward other aspects of housing.
“We’ve worked in the Northwest Neighborhood for several years,” he said. “I’m interested in seeing if we can re-up that partnership and expand the footprint. That’s the discussion I’d like to have in the next couple months because there are still areas in the city that could use that kind of attention.”