A City of Chula Vista program aimed at holding lenders responsible for the condition of abandoned, financially distressed homes is one of the Top 50 contenders for a prestigious Harvard Kennedy School award. More than 600 applicants entered the competition for the Innovations in American Government Awards. Chula Vista’s program placed in the Top 50 and will move onto the next round of competition. Six Innovations in American Government Award winners will be announced in September.
Chula Vista’s Residential Abandoned Property Program, which has become a model for cities across the nation, is changing how the lending industry does business. It’s also protecting Chula Vista neighborhoods from blight. In a news release announcing the Top 50, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Institute described the program this way:
“Chula Vista’s Residential Abandoned Property Program addressed the adverse
conditions and blight caused by vacant, abandoned and financially distressed residential properties by affirmatively placing responsibility for security and
maintenance on mortgage holders.”
In Chula Vista, vacant foreclosed properties must be registered with the city. The names of the lender and the person responsible for maintaining the property must also be provided. If properties are not
registered or maintained, violators are fined $100 to $500 a day. If they don’t pay, the City places a lien on the property.
The program, adopted by the City Council in 2007, is precedent setting. City Code Enforcement Manager Doug Leeper, who created the program, has been contacted by more than 350 cities looking for help in crafting new legislation to deal with the fallout of homes abandoned during the nation’s foreclosure crisis.
Top 50 programs, which can be viewed at www.ashinstitute.harvard.edu, include 21 cities and towns, seven counties, one school district, 11 states, eight federal agencies, one tribal government and one regional authority. The Innovations in Amercian Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 and is considered a significant force in attempting to restore public trust in government by promoting public sector creativity and excellence.