Council Bluffs reminds property owners of vacant property registration program

Not only are vacant properties an eyesore; they’re also a safety hazard.
The City of Council Bluffs has launched a program to help register vacant properties.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:20 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - People who own homes in Council Bluffs that are vacant must register the property with the city.

A new ordinance is in effect requiring homeowners to take this action.

Not only are vacant properties an eyesore; they’re also a safety hazard.

The City of Council Bluffs is taking action on vacant properties.

A man who lives next to a vacant home in Council Bluffs tells 6 News his garage caught fire last November from a campfire started by squatters.

“I understand they were just trying to keep warm and live their lives, but there are other ways they can do that besides sitting out back, then throwing trash and piling that up.”

He’s not alone.

Courtney Harter, Director of Community Development for the City of Council Bluffs, says vacant properties are a chronic problem.

“They often are broken into, there’s sometimes animals that get into them,” Harter said. “If you’re not watching, your pipes can freeze and then you have water breaks. There can be electrical fires, and nobody is there.”

To help mitigate the problem, the city council passed a new Vacant Property Registration program last June and amended it in October.

Harter is trying to get the word out.

“Our hope with the program is to find these properties and ensure that they are secure, that we have a local contact if something were to happen such as a fire, break-in or vandalism and hopefully deter expanded blight in a neighborhood.”

The program applies to single-family homes and duplexes that have been vacant for at least 120 days.

Property owners can register online and will be required to pay a $300 annual fee. Harter says the fee will cover the cost of monitoring, inspecting and recording the condition of the vacant property.

Harter says the program is voluntary. A property owner will not be fined for failing to register.

“We’re hoping that people want to come in and be good citizens and register right now, so that’s our first step.”