Thanks to Cindy B. for attending the County’s foreclosure meeting and reporting back to us! Here is what her report:

There were only about 13 people there, most had only heard about it from the newspaper article. It was supposed to have been a meeting in their series of Neighborhood Leader Training sessions and the subject was supposed to be vehicles and parking, but because of the tall grass crisis, they changed the topic and got the word out as best they could. This information is also the same as what Michelle Casciato presented to the BOCS meeting last week (you can listen to the audio on the county website). She also showed a map of the county as part of her presentation that showed dots where the worst clusters of vacant houses are. There are almost 7000 “distressed properties” – or vacant houses in the county (doesn’t include occupied houses that are for sale). The county has, to date this year, received 400 tall grass complaints and 400 graffiti complaints. Because of the problem the county has suspended the popsicle sign program to put all inspectors’ time on the vacant house/tall grass issue. In fact, the TOP 5 priority code enforcement issues (putting health, safety and welfare first) are:

1. Unsafe/unfit properties (open to criminal activity)
2. Unsecured pools
3. Unsecured buildings (hazardous conditions)
4. Tall grass/weeds
5. Building maintenance (serious/extremely run down)

The county is looking into training volunteers to pull up popsicle signs

Legal action the county is pursuing:
1. Write ordinance to allow county agents to enter private property to abate graffiti
2. Amend Chapter 22 to allow public works to issue emergency notices for trash/debris at vacant properties and recover costs through tax lien
3. Pursue major property owners/lenders in court for noncompliance with county ordinance

Technically it is trespassing to remove trash on a property or mow the lawn. Call the agent/owner and ask permission.

County can’t afford to paint over all graffiti on private property. City of San Jose spends $2 million a year to clean up graffiti. PWC Clean Community Council uses a special formula to get rid of graffiti, but even they can’t go on private property without permission. County would like to get rid of graffiti within 3 days, but still dealing with obstacles.

County is working to streamline the process of an inspector going out to confirm tall grass, getting a contractor to do an estimate to mow, then mowing, then inspector following up.

If you see a lawn is mowed, call and let Neighborhood Services know.

County is disseminating this information to Neighborhood Watches, HOAs, etc.:

Neighborhood Network Activation

  • Vacant house check list for health, safety and welfare issues
  • Disseminate to groups such as established neighborhood groups, neighborhood watches, and other concerned citizen groups upon request
  • Solicit neighborhood volunteers to monitor vacant houses in neighborhoods to report unsafe conditions
  • Neighborhood Services to address reported unsafe conditions from volunteers
  • Go ahead and ask the realtor if you can mow the grass. Someone in audience (about 13 people attended) admitted to just mowing a vacant property. She said when she did, the neighbors came up and asked if she was moving in, and then once they saw It was okay for her to do it, they helped out.

    County calls realtors to explain to them how much it costs the county to mow a lawn and how that will go on a lien against the property and that may drive a buyer away.

    If you get together as a group to take care of a vacant house (and get permission from the owner/real estate agent/bank), remember to greet the new neighbor when they move in and make sure they feel welcome, but also explain what the standards are for living in the neighborhood, such as regularly mowed lawns, etc.

    County wants you to do this:
    Citizen Action

    • Call police if you observe any illegal activity at a vacant property
    • Consider starting or joining a Neighborhood Watch
    • Volunteer to watch a home for a realtor. Establish a relationship, notify them when the grass is tall and notify them when the house has a structural problem (siding down, broken shutter or window, open doors, etc.)
    • Volunteer to mow (avoid trespassing – obtain permission from the owner or call the realtor on the For Sale sign. Use the county “Mapper” on the county website to ID who the owner is.
    • Report property code violations to Neighborhood Services (and call if the grass gets mowed)
    • Complete the “Eyes and Ears” Checklist (this is on the county website)

    33 thoughts on “PWC Foreclosure Meeting Update

    1. Great summary! Thanks!

      Hey, what are the top areas for foreclosures?

    2. Elena

      Cindy B,
      Thank you for providing details, extremely helpful!

    3. Cindy B

      It’s on a map that Michelle Casciato used in her presentation to the BOCS. Pat said there’s a pdf of it, so if you ask Neighborhood Services they could probably e-mail it to you.

    4. Just CAUSE

      I need to ask a stupid question but with ALL of these forclosures, why couldnt the homes be set up as rental properties, Except dont charge an arm and leg for rent and have whom ever rents the property takes care of it..There are ALOT of families without homes according to the transitional housing authority and most of these families are homeless not because of forclosure but for other reasons..like leaving a bad situation and because rentals in this area is so darn high, they cant afford it..so I guess its sad to see ALL these abadoned homes and then there are places that are over flowing with homeless families….just seems like a win win to me…

      Just a question…

    5. Marie

      Thank you, Cindy B for attending the meeting and for providing the information. I commend you for all you efforts in being a problem solver. We need more people willing to solve problems rather than just complain about them.

      I live in the City of Manassas and am doing what I can here to solve the problems of the high grass and trash in my neighborhood.

    6. Marie

      Just CAUSE, There are no stupid questions. That would be something that is worth checking out. I have heard (not sure how accurate) that some of the mortgage companies who processed loans on vacant houses are no longer in business and no one knows how to locate them. So, I assume these are houses without owners at this point.

    7. TWINAD

      Marie,

      I’m wondering if that is the situation in my neighborhood! (mortgage companies out of business!) We have 3 houses on one block that have been vacant since March, but there are no for sale signs, no foreclosure notices on the doors or windows etc. The people who lived in the homes hadn’t been behind on their mortgage when they left, (fled because of the Resolution…and yes I know that because we talk to each other in our neighborhood)but I would have thought they would have been in foreclosure by now, but there isn’t anything going on at those homes.

    8. Lucky Duck

      Twinad, maybe the people are still making payments on their homes with the hopes of returning and/or saving their credit rating.

      Otherwise, some foreclosures can take months (6 plus) to go through the process. Also, if those particular mortgages were bundled into securities and sold, it could take months to determine who the owner actually is.

    9. Lucky Duck

      Twinad, I am curious though. Why would people who want to assimilate into American culture just walk away from financial obligations like a mortgage. That act is a huge obstacle to future assimilation, if that was in fact the families goal. Otherwise, by just leaving the property vacant and to be foreclosed upon places the hardship on the county, the neighbors, the investors and not the actions of people of really want to be or become American citizens, at least in my opinion.

    10. Actually Lucky Duck, trying to get out of financial obligations is almost an American tradition. My American neighbors did it. They could have made the payments, but they just chose not to. They weren’t even in financial distress. And accumulating debt and passing the burden to others has been a tradition since the Reagan administration if I’m not being too subtle.

    11. Just Cause, As I understand it, many of the foreclosures are being bought up by landlords to be converted into rental properties. Unfortunatly I don’t believe there is anyway to insure that the houses are rented out fairly, let alone if they are rented at a decent rate, if the landlord would provide honest service. I have seen some people on BVBL show concern about having massive rental neighborhoods because they feel they would turn into slums easier than having proper home owners posessing the properties. Unfortunatly, based off of personal experiance in Richmond, these neighborhoods could very easily become slums owned by absentee landlords. I myself have top live with my parents because the only places I could afford to rent in Herndon are not in good neighborhoods, nor are the houses particularly well built or secure. I’ve been eying up some properties in Loudoun waiting to see if they will be converted into rentals, rented at a honest price and maintained in an honest way.

      One thing is for sure, the resolution and the bad publicity probally is not going to attract the globally oriented people who are starting to populate Richmond and parts of Fairfax and Loudoun. I like being able to save money by shopping in Arabic, Indian, Korean, Spanish and other ethnic minority stores for items. There are not too many places in NOVA where you can get a twenty pound bag of basmati rice for $20 or cooking gee by the gallon. Herndon is one of those places, and though we have our own little “Help Save” issues, they have gotten as far as the PWC BOCS has. But, and may God grant it to you, if you ever have a day where it is totally normal to put on your dish-dash, drive over to your local Shisha bar, smoke a water pipe while jamming out to Arabic-Raggae and the place is full of jammed with people (including many white people) doing the same in PWC, then PWC would be a place I would be proud to invest in.

      (oddly enough the above scenario can be seen at the Spinx cafe in Herndon every night, especially weekends, but it is nothing compared to the crazy cultural mix events that happen all over Richmond every night, and to think it used to be the capital of the confederacy?!?!!!!!)

      cheers to Richmond, perhaps the new culture capital of Virginia!!!!

    12. TWINAD

      Lucky Duck,

      It was pure panic at the Resolution is my understanding. These families, in my opinion, WERE assimilated. Each home had no more than 5 or 6 people living in them…they were not “flop houses” like I hear a lot about. No excessive noise or trash. They no longer felt safe or welcome in the County even though they had lived here in the County for 5 or 6 years and had been in those homes for 2-3 years. The occupants were of mixed status…some legal, some not. I think they felt they had bought at the top of the market and the prices were going so low, they thought to hell with it…it was not worth risking being taken in by the Police to continue to live in a house that they owed $100k more on than it was worth. Had the Resolution not thrown them into a panic, they would have stayed because their life would have continued on as before. This is what I was told by one of the three families and they told me that the other families were doing the same thing. They are renting an apartment in Springfield now ( the one that I know about). I don’t know where the other families went. Am I saying they should have walked out on their obligation? No. But I’m just saying that I live in a mixed status situation and I had made plans to move too after the resolution was passed. But after reading what Chief Deane said about enforcement, I wasn’t really very concerned by husband would be arrested or detained because even if he did get a ticket (which he did during the enforcement period), he has a valid driver’s license and having a valid license meant that there wouldn’t be “probable cause” to take him in for questioning on his status. I can still sell for a profit since we bought in 2001, but now I won’t have enough for a decent down payment on a property outside of the County. Will have plenty for a deposit on another house in the County, but why should I move if I still have to live in this County?!

      So I guess in the end it came down to self preservation for the people that decided to walk away. If they were detained or deported, they would lose the house, too, right?

    13. Bring it On

      LuckyDuck,
      If they stay they believed they could face deportation. You have to put yourself in their shoes. It’s not returning to their home country that scares them but the not knowing what could happen, would they end up being detained? could their children come home to an empty house? left standing at school? or witness them being arrested? sent to a foster home? or end up in a worse situation? It’s the same as the County’s priorites – SAFETY FIRST. They simply didn’t feel safe for their person and that takes priority over property.

    14. inon

      Just Cause:

      Banks don’t generally want to be in the rental business and they don’t want to be landlords. The process for foreclosure takes months. Once the process is complete, then the bank lists the home for sale. Legally they cannot rent the home out before the foreclosure is complete. And after the foreclosure is complete, they don’t rent out the house because a rental is harder to market than a vacant home. The bank is already out several tens of thousands of dollars, so they just want the home sold and off their books.

      However a non profit group could buy some of the listed properties and rent them out at a subsidized rate. I’m sure some groups have looked in that.

    15. Bring it On

      Anybody else see think that more than 13 people should have shown up? Why didn’t Leticq put the meeting on his website? Where were all the HSM people? Don’t they want to Help Save Manassas? Guess it’s easier for people to scapegoat and complain for 3 minutes then take the time to make a positive change in their neighborhood.

      BTW not talking to you Loudoun sounds like you’re doing your share. Although I have to admit the irony that you’re doing something illegal by trespassing so that you can have a better looking neighborhood. Sound familiar?

    16. Lucky Duck

      But the rest of us, all of us in this society, are paying the price for people who abandon their homes and let them go into foreclosure and that is wrong. While I can sympathize with members of those families living in a state of anxiety, they each made a decision to come to the US (I would do the same thing for the benefit of my family) and there sometimes are consequences for one’s actions, and theirs may have been that state of anxiety. I must admit, even though I see their plight, I resent the fact that they have just abandoned properties, sticking the neighbors, the investors and the County with the bill. What about those family members who were legal, don’t they have an obligation to those I just listed? How can we count on those family members who were illegal later on if given a pathway to citizenship to do the right thing if they have already done the wrong thing by walking away from serious financial obligations? What happens the next time something goes wrong, what will they do then?

      As I have stated, I feel for their plight, but their plight is self made, a conscious decision to come to Prince William, a conscious decision to enter into a lawful contract to buy a home and a conscious decision to just walk away and stick it to the rest of us. Not necessairly the type of people who may make the best citizens.

    17. Anon-100

      Bring it On, 29. May 2008, 14:57, Are you talking about the HSM meeting last night? If you are, I was there and there were close to 30 people there, not the 13 you claim.

    18. Peppermint Patty

      Cindy-
      Thank you very much for sharing the information from last night’s meeting with us. The “Eyes and Ears” check list is a great tool for the concerned citizen to take an active/positive role in the community.

      All-
      The idea of “community groups” seems far more promising than Neighborhood Watches. My concern with Neighborhood Watches are some may take advantage of “the power” they may have or think they have. The community coming together to better the overall quality of life is the way to go. Neighborhood issues are the biggest challenges we are faced with at the current time. With 7,000 vacant homes through out the county often left in ill repair with trash and tall grass the county needs the help of the citizens. We all must become involved in anyway possible. I am very concerned about the teens this summer when school lets out. These vacant houses could potenitally become part time “Animal Houses”.

    19. TWINAD

      Only 30? I thought membership was 2,000?! Only 1.5% of the members show up for meetings?!

      It is a different meeting…there was a meeting regarding the community…see original post.

    20. junkyard dog

      Twinad,

      Do you really think there are 2000 members or do you think people just signed on the dotted line and moved on? If it is like many organizations, they claim thousands and 10 people at the best do all the work. Woof!

    21. Alanna

      Eric,
      Can you confirm whether or not Greg claimed 1200 members at GMU? For some reason I have that number in my head. If so, it would be a far cry from the 2,000 that he stated before. Just curious.

    22. TWINAD

      Junkyard…you are probably right. I saw him signing up people at the County Fair last year. That’s probably where he got more than half his members…attacking people while they were watching cars crash. Woof!

    23. Censored bybvbl

      It’s easy to get people to sign petitions, etc. as long as they don’t have to make commitments or pay dues. It would be interesting to see how much money has been collected and who pays taxes on it.

    24. Loudoun

      Bring it On,

      I contacted the realtors first and discussed the overgrown lawns with them.

      I then spoke with two different people at Neighborhood Services and told them my neighbor and I were mowing the lawns. They both said no problem – and one of them was an inspector! I then attended Supervisor Stirrup’s Town Hall Meeting, and County Attorney Ross Horton was specifically asked about mowing the lawns of abandoned homes. Mr. Horton said that the County would not give permission/condone mowing the lawns – due to possible liability concerns – but he did say that the owner’s and realtor’s would benefit from having the lawn mowed. He also said he didn’t think they would complain about having their property maintained for free – and that it would improve our community.

      Since he didn’t say no – and in a roundabout way said it was beneficial – I feel comfortable that I won’t be charged with trespassing!

      I don’t see any similarities between mowing the lawns to illegal aliens trespassing in our country – is that what you are alluding?

      I apologize if I am incorrect 🙂

    25. Cindy B

      Peppermint Patty, I like the mix of HOAs, Neighborhood Watches and community groups. One of the people I met at the county meeting last night is the organizer of a community group in Lindendale, and that group has been making a big difference in her community with clean ups, home repairs for the needy and cutting away overgrowth in an area where a man was a victim of a street robbery.

      Loudoun, what you’re doing is great, working with the county, the realtors and your neighbors. I encourage everyone to work with Neighborhood Services in the county and city. They really know their stuff, and yet are open to suggestions. When Pat Reilly said the county can’t afford to paint over graffiti, I told her that Habitat for Humanity has a ReStore that sells paint at 40% off and more. They also have a new partnership with Home Depot — where Home Depot sends them pallets of merchandise that CAN’T be resold — the merchandise has to be used for charitable reasons. I would think painting graffiti on a distressed property is a worthwhile cause.

      As for Neighborhood Watch, this is what I copied off the Internet:

      “It’s been a national program since the 1960’s and has demonstrated success as a simple and effective crime prevention program. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Citizen Corps, a component of President Bush’s USA Freedom Corps initiative, was established to create opportunities for volunteers to help communities prepare for and respond to emergencies. Two elements of Citizen Corps are the national VIPS Program and Neighborhood Watch.”

      I think all of us can benefit from being better connected with our neighbors in case of emergencies. Neighborhood Watches partner with the police and can help out if they are called on. Don’t wait until a tornado or flood or fire or manmade disaster strikes to get to know your neighbors.

      And if mowing an extra lawn can help make the neighborhood safe for everyone, I’m ready to do it (my neighbor and I have been mowing and raking leaves at a vacant house since last fall, with the owner’s permission).

    26. Rick Bentley

      Lucky Duck, you have to understand, most of the illegals got the loans through some family member’s ID or some acquaintence, not straight up the way Americans are expected to play the game. The one next to me was obtained under the name of some woman who I saw there once or twice in two years, and another woman who looked nothing like her told the police she was her when they came over noise complaints.

      It’s a big game that our lawmakers have enabled. if the rich make money off it by suppressing American wages – anything goes. Guaranteed home loans to ilelgal aliens.

    27. Peppermint Patty

      Cindy B-
      I think Neighborhood Watches are fine too. Don’t misunderstand me. I think they are a key part of having a thriving safe community. I’m fear there’s a few “Barney Fife’s” in P-Dub. ;)I think for now the Zoning type issues are the most pressing, and in need of immediate addressing. Neighborhood Services needs are help. They have a brutal summer ahead of them this year.

    28. Red Dawn

      Peppermint Patty,

      I have to back you about ” Barney Fife’s and say that it is always a good rule of thumb to have checks and balances or the childhood game of “king of the hill” can become reality.
      Hiissss…more scared of snakes than that scenario happening, to tell you the truth 🙂

    29. Moon-howler

      Apartment rents have been not gone up in a year or two in Manassas. I think that the apartment rents pretty much control the pricing on other rentals. There are many vacancies.

    30. anon

      They tried a neighborhood watch in my neighborhood a few years ago. I went to a meeting or two, but the people who were gung ho about it were too gung ho – and scared the heck out of me as they wanted to run it like a military organization just about. I will admit this was my only impression of it – but it seemed like the people who are really into it and want to organize it are the types that tend to go on power trips and so forth. Anyway, there wasn’t enough interest, probably because the people trying to organize it were so far out on the extreme! I guess indeed it was the “Barney Fife” syndrome!

      I do think a neighborhood watch, properly run, would be a good thing, but my brief experience when they tried to organize it here, sort of left a bad impression on me. in fact, if this neighborhood had a properly run neighborhood watch, I do think some of the problems that have occurred recently wouldn’t be happening – at least it might cut down on some of the broken glass and other assorted vandalism that seems to be ongoing.

    31. anon

      Moon-howler – don’t know what apartment rents run. But for my 3 bedroom, 3 floor townhouse (basement is finished) – I’ve been quoted a rental rate of $1350/month as part of the guaranteed lease program I’m getting into, for the purchase of the new house I’m buying. It seems that is a good way to go, as it seems almost suicidal to sell the house for the ridiculously low amount it would go for now. Anyway, don’t know how that compares to apartment rents, but to me $1350/month seemed like a pretty reasonable number. It is a number I can live with and it makes me able to afford the new house, since my loan payment on this house is pretty low.

    32. Peppermint Patty

      anon, 30. May 2008, 22:20
      The “Barney Fife Sydrome” (BFS), is my biggest fear. Neighborhood Watches are about getting the community to come together. Not, chase people away such as yourself, me, and many others from participating. Neighborhood Watch is community oriented. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Neighborhood Watches are a good thing. The last thing we need running around the county is some “pistol packing power trippers”. We can all pick up the phone and call the police with suspicious activity when we see. I don’t want some busy body being the “local law” in their minds.
      Thanks for your post. I’m glad to see I’m not alone with Barney Fife’s of PWC. Only thing is these folks have more than one bullet I’m sure. 😉

    33. Hi, I came upon this site accidentally, but read Cindy B’s recap of the Neighborhood Services meeting. I attended that meeting but didn’t take wonderful notes like Cindy! How could I get permission to copy those notes to distribute to my neighborhood group?

      Also, there is a Neighborhood Leadership meeting at 7:00PM on Monday, June 23 at the McCoart Building.

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