It used to be that, four or five times a year, Dallas would have an auction and sell its tax-foreclosed properties to the highest bidder. The last one happened on June 13, 2013, two weeks before the City Council complained that the houses were falling into the hands of slum lords and shady boarding-home operators.
Since then, Dallas has been sitting on the properties it owns -- about 400 parcels in all -- while it figures out a way to keep them from dragging down surrounding neighborhoods. And by "surrounding neighborhoods," we mean West Dallas, South Dallas and Oak Cliff, which, with a few exceptions, is where the tax-foreclosed properties sit.
The map doesn't show it, but there are plenty of people in the northern half of the city who lose their properties over tax issues. The strikingly lopsided geographical distribution is largely a byproduct of the tax-foreclosure process. The properties that wind up in the possession of the city of Dallas, and therefore show up on the map, are the ones Dallas County couldn't sell during its monthly property auction.
"If the properties don't sell there, then they are struck off to the city of Dallas as trustee," says Bonnie Meeder, assistant director of the city's real estate division.
Properties up north tend to get snatched up on the courthouse steps. Many of the ones down south revert to the city.
Meeder says Dallas has stopped accepting new tax-foreclosed properties while the offices of the city manager and city attorney hammer out a new strategy aimed at somehow improving the properties so they stop being a drag on neighborhoods. Meeder expects a new policy to be unveiled in the near future, at which point the city will begin ridding itself of the properties it's currently sitting on and begin accepting new ones.
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in the meantime, Meeder says Dallas is mowing lawns, boarding up windows, demolishing unsafe structures and otherwise maintaining the orphaned real estate.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.