Spokane recognized across west coast for shutting down nuisance houses


SPOKANE, Wash. -There’s new information about an abandoned home in north Spokane that's caused a lot of problems. The home is located right by a park that's popular with kids.

After several calls to Crime Check, the home is finally boarded up.

The home received an “Abandoned Property Chronic Nuisance Notice,” and whoever was inside the abandoned home, can’t come back. 

The neighborhood can go back to peace and quiet.  “We haven't seen any foot traffic at night. We feel a lot safer,” said Kelsey, a neighbor in the area.

Kelsey says she's grateful to her neighborhood for standing up and for all the police work.

Abandoned properties like the one on East Nebraska, are a big problem in the city. “|There's way too many. There's no shortage of properties to work on. We probably have 1,500 abandoned properties and maybe 1,000 that would qualify as a chronic nuisance property,” said Matt Folsom, Assistant City Attorney in Spokane. 

Folsom works with the Spokane Police Department on abandoned and nuisance properties and he says properties like the one that was causing a problem on Nebraska are a threat to public health and safety.    

Even though they've served the papers, their work goes far and beyond.  “A boarded up house is definitely better than a drug house but returning that house to productive use is much better than the boarded up house. We don't just stop with boarding up the house,” said Folsom.

Kelsey is now wishing for just that. “I just hope that somebody decent buys it and can fix it up, so that we can have another neighbor instead of an abandoned house here,” she said.

SPD is getting recognized in the west coast for shutting down properties like the one on East Nebraska. Other cities in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are asking for their help. 

Folsom says the city of Spokane is one of the only cities in Washington that actually has included abandoned properties in their definition of a nuisance. So now, every abandoned property qualifies as a chronic nuisance property.  The Spokane Police Department assigns an officer to a case and they investigate that property just like they would investigate a crime. They talk to neighbors and they work up the calls for service.

Once the case has been made, it's filed in superior court and they abate the nuisance. That means, they clear everybody out of the house and the house is boarded up but it doesn't stop there.

“One of the things that we are doing that's really interesting and we are the only city in Washington to be doing it, we appoint a receiver over that property and the receiver basically steps in the shoes of the owner. They can then sell that property free and clear of liens and rights of redemption.  So instead of a boarded up house, we can get new owners into the house and (have) a positive use again,” said Folsom.

Folsom says in May, they are going to a national conference in Milwaukee on how to reclaim vacant properties and the city of Spokane has been asked to speak on what they are doing.

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