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Springfield City Council passes new resolution on nuisance properties

Springfield, Missouri's Historic City Hall, photographed Aug. 9, 2022.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield, Missouri's Historic City Hall, photographed Aug. 9, 2022.

Nuisance properties have been a challenge in Springfield for decades. On Monday night City Council voted unanimously to try some new approaches to the problem.

City Council has been trying to deal with nuisance properties for years. A community-based Nuisance Property Work Group assembled by the city issued a report this spring. They documented roughly 3,000 nuisance property complaints each year from 2015 through 2021.

In a city where most housing stock is rented out, 71 percent of problem cases were linked to rental properties. Many of those complaints focused on Springfield’s historic neighborhoods.

At Monday night's City Council meeting, more than a dozen speakers spent roughly 45 minutes going over the problem.

Councilman Brandon Jenson commented on a nuisance property resolution he co-sponsored with Councilwoman Monica Horton: “Our current situation is a result of systemic issues in the way that we approach nuisance properties that have been built out over the last several decades.... This is primarily a data request that will provide us with a boots-on-the-ground analysis and understanding of the situation.”

Resident Tom McFarland said, “And when you see these nuisance properties: a home with a falling-in roof, a crumbling foundation, holes in the walls and all of these issues... Folks are living there because they gotta live somewhere.”

Resident Alice Barber said, “Renters from all over Springfield come to Springfield Tenants Unite looking for help with poor conditions in their homes. They tell us about floors and stairs that aren’t safe to walk on, ceilings that leak, pipes that back up with sewage, and insects and all kinds of other health and safety hazards. And those hazards can lead to chronic health problems, injuries, missed days to work and school and eventually, homelessness.”

The nuisance property resolution sailed through City Council with a 9-to-0 vote Monday night.

The resolution calls on the city manager to collect data on all nuisance property tickets from the first 5 months of this year. Going forward, the city must issue similar reports every three months.

Two City Council committees will be tasked with trying to implement recommendations from the Nuisance Property Work Group — notably, that the city should add a nuisance property coordinator and make more efforts to work with nuisance property owners before issuing citations. City Council committees will also study a system of “escalating fees” that could form a deterrent against “chronic” nuisance properties.

Springfield will also evaluate up to three other “comparable” communities in terms of how other cities deal with nuisance properties.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.