Abandonment issues: North Minneapolis dealt another blow


It’s no secret that North Minneapolis has been hit harder by the mortgage meltdown than any place in Minnesota. While no neighborhood is immune to the housing crisis — million-dollar downtown condos are seeing foreclosures, and so are homes in toney Linden Hills — the north side has been unfairly flogged. So how is that part of town looking two years after it started taking a heavy beating? Empty and abandoned.

According to the most recent data from the city’s Regulatory Services Division, there are 503 abandoned homes on the north side alone. In fact, 10 neighborhoods in the city’s Fourth Precinct are dealing with about 40 abandoned homes apiece. By comparison, all of South Minneapolis (the city’s Third Precinct) has 77 homes on its vacant list. Neither number is good. But 503 abandoned homes for a part of town that’s home to only about 50,000 residents is eye-popping.

To be sure, these properties aren’t simply houses homeowners moved from and are waiting to sell. These are buildings that the city housing inspector has determined to be either condemned or unoccupied and unsecured. They are deserted homes that have landed on the city’s “249/VBR Program List” (Vacant Building Registration Program) and are considered “nuisance properties,” subject to abatement action by the city. Abatement actions include “removing the nuisance,” or in other words, demolishing the property.

Registering a vacant property with the city doesn’t come without a hefty price: Minneapolis recently raised its Vacant Building Registration fee from $2,000 to $6,000, effective March 17. That fee is applied to the property taxes, so if there ends up being a regular sale on the home, the new homeowners are stuck with the payment.

And what about the lenders who own the properties? According to Kellie Jones in the Regulatory Services Division, it is unclear whether the assessments and fees are paid for properties that are simply transferred back to the bank after the foreclosure-redemption period.

The alarmingly high number of abandoned homes in North Minneapolis is in direct correlation to that part of the city’s disparate number of foreclosures. Homes in the north side’s 55411 ZIP code have a foreclosure rate of 5.06 percent, according to a study released last week by local nonprofits Housing Link and the Housing Preservation Project. That’s seven times higher than the rate for Hennepin County as a whole. And it’s atypical for urban areas, too: The seven-county metro area has a foreclosure rate of only 0.69 percent.

Some of the homes on the north side’s VBR list have been there since 2006. And even more were added at the end of the summer of 2007, when foreclosures skyrocketed. Since the beginning of the year, 40 new deserted homes have made the list. And according to the city’s Problem Properties Unit, more are being added every day.