7 blighted homes sold at sheriff’s auction in New Orleans

7 blighted homes sold at sheriff's auction in New Orleans

Date: Jun 15, 2011

7 blighted homes sold at sheriff's auction in New Orleans

Seven blighted New Orleans properties with outstanding city fines were sold Tuesday at a sheriff's auction, a method officials hope will soon become one of the primary means for getting such structures back into commerce in a city that is considered the nation's most blighted.

More than 40 bidders attended the auction, filling the lobby of the Civil District Court building. Though 12 of the 19 houses went unsold, city officials said they were pleased with the results.

The winning buyers are expected to rebuild or renovate these buildings, which were seized by Sheriff Marlin Gusman's office when their owners failed to make improvements after a citation or judgment.

Jeff Hebert, the city's director of blight policy and neighborhood revitalization, said that while the new owners will be released from the judgments placed on the old owners, they will face the same fate if they don't make repairs.

"These new buyers are expected to improve the fabric of New Orleans' neighborhoods," he said.

New Orleans has a higher percentage of blighted housing stock than any other major American city, with roughly one in four housing units dilapidated or abandoned.

While much of that decay is damage from Hurricane Katrina, city officials struggled before the storm to come up with effective ways of getting blighted homes into new hands.

Their main strategies have been declaring properties legally blighted (to seize and resell), and selling properties with unpaid taxes at tax sales. But both methods are time-consuming and have never made a major dent in the problem.

City Councilwoman Stacy Head championed the sheriff's sale process in 2007, in which the city acts much like a bank that begins foreclosure proceedings. But rather than satisfying an unpaid mortgage, the city is simply attempting to collect on unpaid liens and fines.

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