Auburn mayor photographs abandoned foreclosed homes for 'Wall of Shame'

Sep 14, 2012

Are abandoned, dilapidated houses a problem in your neighborhood? They are in Auburn, and that city’s mayor isn’t putting up with it.

Mayor Pete Lewis has been taking photos of abandoned houses owned by far-flung banks and publishing them with the bank’s information on a “Wall of Shame” website. And that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city's efforts.

Lewis said the website has been active for about 45 days and he's heard some grumbling from banks on the list and that's okay.

"They can complain if they want to," said Lewis, who is a former banker and knows how the system works.

The banks not only get bad publicity when they let property get rundown in Auburn, they can also be fined and have a lien placed by the city against the property – and that really gets their attention because it disrupts their ability to pass the foreclosed mortgage around, Lewis said.

He added that banks shouldn't expect to get off the list or have the liens lifted just because they get the lawn mowed one time. The city will check on the property over time to make sure it's kept up. 

Citizens involved 

Lewis said he wants citizens to know they are not only heard by the city, but they can also play a role in the enforcement of the rules.

“Citizens are encouraged to write, phone or email the mortgage holders or property preservation contacts and request action be taken on one or more abandoned properties,” the city’s website says. “These efforts may help convince the mortgage holders and property preservation companies to act more quickly and consistently.”

City officials say on the site that these dilapidated properties have a serious impact on surrounding homes and in many cases they are owned by out-of-state financial institutions that are slow to respond to complaints.

"Keep in mind, it could be the house next to yours that has grass that's three feet high, windows broken in, etc. Nobody wants that in their neighborhood," Lewis told MyNorthwest.com