Kinston votes to help the sale of empty city-owned properties

KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) – The City of Kinston has unanimously voted to start a process that is aimed at making it easier to sell city-owned properties to interested parties.

Councilman Chris Suggs introduced the policy that was put into motion Tuesday night.

He described it by saying, “The City of Kinston currently owns several hundred vacant and underutilized properties throughout our community that have been a strain on city resources to keep clean and maintained. I’m excited to announce this policy that will make it easier for interested citizens to identify what properties are owned by the City of Kinston and define clear procedures and requirements for those citizens to submit bids to purchase them.”

Suggs says that the policy directs city staff to make a list of city-owned properties that are of no use to the city government and then present that list to the council every December. Once the council approves it, the list will be advertised on the city’s website and social media, as well as be available at city hall.

Suggs says the list will be available this coming December depending on the staffing of the planning department, which is currently not filled.

Under the policy, the party that buys the property would pay 15% of the appraised tax value. The winning bidder has to pay the advertising costs for bids under $1,000.

Kinston Mayor Don Hardy says they want people to value the properties.

“We just want people to do what they’re supposed to do when they receive the property and if any reason that they fall through on purchasing the property, we will look at it and figure out what we can do from there,” Hardy said. “Our main goal is to make sure that it’s streamlined, people have the option to know what is available, how to get to it, how to obtain the property and what we expect out of them as far as making sure that the property is clean.”

WITN is told that most of the properties owned by the city are located in East Kinston, a historically Black community home to economic woes.

“Many of these properties are located in East Kinston and we want to encourage people to invest that community because the lack of investment over the years and because of how disenfranchised that neighborhood has been,” Suggs said. “One of the unique things about this proposal is that as these properties are back in the hand of private citizens and business owners, I think it creates the opportunity for new housing, new businesses and other community development projects for our neighborhood.”

According to Suggs, hurricanes and flooding have caused the city to buy a number of the properties in this area through flood buyout programs. However, properties subject to flood buyout restrictions cannot be bought under this policy; they will be maintained by the city while they develop long-term plans for these areas.

The newest city council member also tells WITN that prior to joining the city council, he worked with the city to develop a vacant lot adoption program to help with the issue. It allowed nonprofit organizations to “beautify” city-owned properties for two years.

Now, Suggs says this new policy is different because it will encourage outright acquisition and will grow the city’s tax base.

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