The Greensboro City Council passed a resolution giving the city the right to take people’s property rights away and give them to a “receiver” if the vacant property is in a bad state of repair and the property owner won’t repair it.
The receivership program represents new authority given to municipalities by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2020. Greensboro would have to go through the courts, but it gives the city much more power in handling property that is in disrepair.
Councilmember Justin Outling described the receivership program as “giving the city another tool in the tool box” in dealing with dilapidated buildings.
Two things that are remarkable about this new receivership program is that the City Council has not discussed the receivership program at a public meeting and that it was passed on the consent agenda.
The consent agenda is a list of what are supposed to be “routine and housekeeping type” items that don’t require discussion. Items such as setting the date for a public hearing, along with minor adjustments to the budget and minor change orders to contracts are usually found on the consent agenda. All the items on the sometimes lengthy consent agenda are passed with one vote.
Starting a new program that gives the city the authority to go to court and take rights away from a property owner because a building is in a state of disrepair and give it to a receiver, who will repair and can then sell it, is a much bigger deal than setting the date for a public hearing on a rezoning request.
Outling agreed that it was somewhat odd to have the program on the consent agenda, “In terms of it being a substantive item that really is progress for the city.”
But he added that it did make sense from the standpoint that no one was going to vote against it.
The City Council has not held a work session on this program, nor has it discussed it at a regular City Council meeting.
Outling said that he saw the receivership program much like the changes to the minimum housing code in 2016 that gave the city the authority to go in and repair buildings and place a lien on the building for the cost of those repairs.
Outling said that with the receivership program it would be a third party, not the city, spending money to make the repairs the buildings, so the receiver would be taking the financial risk.
Outling also noted that the final decisions on whether or not a receiver was appointed and how much authority the receiver was given was up to the courts, after a petition was filed by the Minimum Housing Standards Commission.
According to the information provided by the city, the receivership program is for vacant dilapidated buildings, but in actuality if a building has one major or five minor building code violations the city could start the process. Minor violations include such things as peeling paint and cracked plaster.
The resolution that was passed was, according to a city report, for a pilot program for 20 properties. However, there is nothing in the resolution that says pilot program or limits the city’s program to 20 properties.