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Mayor Parker announces new Strike-off blight removal initiative

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On Wednesday April 23, Houston Mayor Annise Parker held her press following the City Council meeting in the rotunda, accompanied by Finance Director Kelly Dow and private attorneys who work with the City on the sale of foreclosed properties held in trust to announce a new “Strike-off” agreement.

In her press release, the mayor explained the background of an inter-local agreement between Harris County, the City of Houston and the Houston Independent School District established in 2000. The agreement called or a committee of representatives of each entity which would elaborate common procedures and strategies for dealing with abandoned real estate known as “strike-offs”. A “strike-off” is a property that has low market value compared with mortgages or tax obligations.

In many cases, the owner dies and it may not be clear who holds title, or the heirs may not take an interest in the property. The city may need to board up a house or demolish it altogether. The city also mows lawns and removes debris and trash from real estate held in trust. Consequently, “strike-offs” become a burden on taxpayers rather than a source of tax revenue until they are sold. With the current procedures, the city recovers about 1% of its costs in maintaining strike-offs. However, with the expedited procedures in place with today's ordinance, the properties will be sold more quickly, and the city can hope to recover up to 40% of the costs.

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