By John McNamara
Housing and taxes are usually topics as hot as this week’s weather and both are on the agenda of the Common Council’s Committee on Administration, Finance and Law at 7 p.m. today at a City Hall public hearing and meeting.
Four Republican aldermen have proposed changes to the city’s anti-blight ordinance that would reduce fines and penalties that can be imposed on absentee landlords for neglecting or walking away from multi-unit housing. Revisions would also amend some definitions of what constitutes “blighting conditions” but leaves most of them intact.
At issue is how tough the city will be on absentee owners responsible for blight. The current ordinance states that blighted properties will be subject a fine of $250 per blighted condition per day after a 30-day grace period. The fine will double if not paid within 10 days of issuance. The proposal advanced by Ald. Willie Pabon, Don Naples, Jamie Giantonio and Lou Salvio would lower the penalties:
When the owner of the property has been found in violation of this article, a blight enforcement official shall issue a ticket for such violation, which ticket shall provide for a fine of ninety dollars ($90.00) per violation payable to the City of New Britain. If any such fine is not paid within fifteen (15) days, a penalty in an amount equal to three (3) times the fine shall immediately become due and payable in addition to the original fine.
No matter how you do the math the $90 fine even when it triples weakens anti-blight enforcement and takes an important economic tool away from the city to crack down on blight.. Fair housing advocates sends the wrong signal to the bad actors in the city’s rental housing market and worry that the Stewart Administration is pushing the change as a sop to out of town landlords for their financial and campaign support in the 2013 election.
Expanding Senior Property Tax Credits
On property taxes, Common Council President Michael Trueworthy is asking the Council Committee chaired by Ald. David DeFronzo to consider expanding senior property tax credits beyond the levels now allowed by the state-mandated program. The Council extended income levels for senior and disabled residents several years ago without increasing costs in the overall municipal budget. That legislation, however, was vetoed by the former Stewart administration.
The senior tax relief measure may take on more significance with the adoption of the municipal budget that raised the property tax rate by 11% this year, cut services and raised fees to deal with a structural budget deficit.