Unified Government targets thousands of vacant homes, hoping to clean up Wyandotte County neighborhoods

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The Unified Government of Wyandotte County is targeting vacant and abandoned houses -- hoping to clean up neighborhoods. The UG says its tax delinquency rate is close to 10 percent -- and this county has over 6,000 vacant homes where nobody's paying. Some of those tax bills are several thousand dollars apiece.

Old empty houses are more than an eyesore. Wyandotte County Assistant County Administrator Melissa Mundt says they're someone's unpaid tax tab. Government leaders say in some cases the homeowners are going three years without paying up.

"If people aren't paying their taxes, they're not investing in their community. That means they have concerns, perhaps, or they're not physically living here," Mundt said.

When owners aren't around, vacant houses, such as the one on 11th Avenue near Barnett, can fall into disrepair and become havens of crime.

"There are people who can pay who aren't paying. We believe that's the bulk of individuals. It's not a matter of cost of payment. It's a disinvestment in their community," Mundt said.

This five-year tax collection effort is tied to SOAR -- a Unified Government effort to improve the overall safety and image of KCK neighborhoods.

Neighbors such as Blas Soto say they're tired of property tax cheats who allow their property to fall into disrepair. Soto says as it stands -- he's mowing three yards on his street, only one of which is his.

"The people who don't take care of their houses, or they don't clean it up, and they don't pay their taxes, you should get even or sell the house to somebody else," Soto told FOX 4.

None of these homes are listed in the county's land bank. Mundt also says around 1,000 vacant homes will go to the auction block in August, but she and other county leaders would rather see owners pay their taxes and clean up their land.