Hollister officials raise accountability for faraway owners

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The Hollister City Council takes action against a big
problem
The Hollister City Council has taken quick, sensible action
against the vast increase in the number of vacant homes becoming
nuisances.
The Hollister City Council takes action against a big problem

The Hollister City Council has taken quick, sensible action against the vast increase in the number of vacant homes becoming nuisances.

This problem has resulted from San Benito County’s ailing real estate market and a coinciding hike to the tally of empty, foreclosed properties often owned by faraway banks, sometimes overseas.

In Hollister alone, there were 179 bank-owned properties, 100 that are up for auction and another 280 in the pre-foreclosure process as of earlier this week, according to a city staff report.

That harsh reality has led to emptied homes falling into dangerous levels of disrepair, while others are being broken into for drug use and other criminal activity, City Code Enforcement Officer Chambless has said.

He, in turn, has had trouble locating property owners when complaints have arisen. It’s an aggravation to an already disturbing housing economy that needed a swift response, and that’s what officials provided in the resolution spurred by Chambless and his difficulties reaching these property owners.

Program requires more accountability for property owners

Council members unanimously approved the first of two required readings of an ordinance that would create a more resolute chain of communication between the city and owners of vacant homes declared as nuisances. In requiring enrollment into a program mandating more accountability for homeowners and the responsibility to provide a designated party nearby to respond, it’s a fair approach because it calls for action only after property owners fail to show they can keep the homes in adequate conditions.

Under the ordinance, owners of vacant homes that are declared nuisances are required to enroll in a program demanding that they provide someone close by who can be reached, bi-weekly inspections and posting of a sign with the responsible party’s contact information.

City must use laws in place to penalize neglectful homeowners

Property owners, overseas or not, should be held accountable for any nuisances they create. And the city should use the laws in place to penalize them when their properties become eyesores or the meeting place for criminal activity – both of which are bound to drive down neighborhood housing values at a time when many people can’t afford another blow to the chin.

This ordinance heightens the accountability three-fold for property owners already proven to be neglectful by creating these new avenues for ensuring that property owners either maintain their homes or else they’ll have to answer to the city.

Enforcement, though, is important. The law itself won’t deter neighborhoods’ degradation.

City officials must follow through and ensure that the ordinance results in penalties for noncompliant owners.

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