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Updated: Richmond homes at risk of city-forced auction

Two homes in Richmond City
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
More than 50% of the affected homes are south of the James River.

Most of the properties affected have seen substantial increases in assessed value — and taxes.

Updated: August 29, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
This article was updated to include comment from a city spokesperson.

The city of Richmond may soon force the sale of multiple properties because of unpaid taxes.

On July 27, the city gave 30-day notices to the owners of 21 homes to pay their back taxes. Owners could also request to enter a payment plan during this period. Following the notice period, which ended Saturday, Richmond may petition the circuit court to sell them at public auctions if the city chooses to.

City spokesperson Petula Burks said many of the identified owners have already paid their bills or entered a payment plan to do so, but did not specify how many.

"The Notice of Intent is one of many steps the city takes to get people to pay their bills. It does not mean the property has been identified for a tax sale yet," Burks said.

Property owners must be at least two years behind on their taxes before the city can file a notice of intent, according to state law, and the following legal proceedings would also take months.

"Property owners are given about 2.5 years to pay or get on a payment plan before the property can be sold at auction," Burks said.

Many of the 21 properties have recently seen their values rise substantially, averaging about a 70% assessment increase since 2018. Three homes’ assessment more than doubled during that period — as did their owners' tax burdens.

Eleven of the 21 homes (52%) are situated south of the James River, though only about 40% of the city’s housing units are located there. Five more are in Northside, and two are near the city’s Fulton neighborhood. Damon Harris, a Richmond-based housing investor with Teal House Co., said tax sales are often concentrated in those neighborhoods.

“Stop targeting Southside. Stop targeting Northside,” Harris said. “Stop targeting parts of the city and families that don’t have [money].”

A 2022 study from the Yale School of Management found institutional investors often benefit from tax sales. The study found that from 2009–2012, about 80% of properties in Washington, D.C., tax sales were purchased by institutional investors.

According to the study, those purchases contributed to increasing prices for nearby homes, and families of color were less likely to purchase homes in neighborhoods with tax sales to institutional investors.

VPM News spoke with owners of several of the listed properties, but none were willing to go on record.

Connor Scribner is a former VPM News assistant editor.
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