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Plans advance for York City foreclosure registry

Julia Scheib
505-5439/@JuliaDispatch

An ordinance passed by the York City Council in October aims to reduce blight by creating a registry of properties in foreclosure and holding the properties' owners accountable for their upkeep.

The problem is, the city doesn't have the manpower to track down the owners of those properties.

"We don't have any way to enforce it, with city staff the way it is," said city solicitor Jason Sabol during Tuesday's city council meeting.

Kevin Sidella

Enter Community Champions, a Florida-based company that goes after the entities that own foreclosed homes — usually banks — and gets them to register with their municipalities and pay the registration fee.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to authorize an agreement between the city and the company for services related to the foreclosed property registry and maintenance ordinance.

Community Champions: After property owners are registered, Community Champions helps to connect city employees with them so that they can be notified of code violations.

The company has an app for code enforcement officers: When an officer notices a violation on a property in foreclosure, they can log in to the app and determine who owns the property. Then, they can contact that entity's property maintenance inspector, said Kevin Sidella, who works for the company as a relationship manager.

Sidella said Community Champions has registered more than 1 million properties nationwide.

The company's Pennsylvania clients include Reading, Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown and Scranton, he said.

Fee collection: Out of the $200 registration fee the city would charge property owners, Community Champions would get half.

York City currently has 313 active foreclosure properties, according to a packet Sidella passed out.

The company estimates that in 2016 it will register and collect fees from about 10 percent of that number of properties per month on top of the properties already in foreclosure. That means that ideally, $3,130 in fees per month would go to the city on top of the $31,300 in fees from the backlog of foreclosure properties.

The company has a 90 percent fee-collection rate, Sidella said.

With the company's help enforcing the ordinance, the city can expect about $50,000 in additional revenue in 2016 — a conservative estimate, Sidella said.

But the goal of the ordinance is not to put cash in the city's coffers, said Councilman Michael Helfrich.

It's to reduce blight.

"Our real goal is to improve our neighborhoods, to be able to find the individuals or find the banks that are responsible for the maintenance of these properties," he said.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.