Modesto Abatement Fund Enables Timely Removal of Blight

In a time of foreclosures and vacant homes, Modesto is leading the charge to eliminate blight in its neighborhoods.  In just 14 months, and armed with its Abatement Fund, Modesto’s Building Safety and Neighborhood Preservation Division has addressed blight and unsafe conditions at 19 properties at a cost of $62,554.

Modesto’s Multi-Year Abatement Fund was established in late 2011 by the Modesto City Council with $50,000 in “seed” money from the General Fund.  The purpose?  Removal of nuisances that mar the City of Modesto’s image; securing unmaintained and unsecured properties due to the housing crisis; and reducing safety risks such as fires, vagrants and crime often associated with abandoned homes.

The fund is also a tool in holding lending institutions and owners responsible for proper maintenance of properties through penalty fees, liens and fines.  The costs to abate properties are drawn from the fund and remaining balances roll over year-to-year.  The best news of all is that the program has been so successful that there is no longer a need for financial support from the General Fund which pays for other essential city services like police and fire services.

“I cannot stress enough what a great resource this fund is for the timely abatement of nuisance properties,” said Will Crew, Modesto’s Chief Building Official.  “It has enabled staff to aggressively tackle these blighted properties and the quick turn-around time due to available funds evokes a sense of pride in the neighborhoods and in our staff – it’s a tangible reminder that the work they do makes an impact on the Modesto community.”

A recent abatement project was a 4-plex unit that had been a source of criminal activity for several months.  The property recently caught fire making it a safety issue and because the Abatement Fund is in place, staff was able to start the demolition process under what is called a summary abatement within a few days at a cost of $11,800.