PLEASANTVILLE — With one out of 10 homes in the city vacant, officials are touting the success of two programs aimed at keeping residents from losing their homes and keeping those properties that are abandoned from becoming eyesores and public safety problems.

The city’s effort to register abandoned or vacant homes, funded by a $500 registration fee that deedholders pay, has resulted in $200,000 in revenue. Meanwhile, a city program that lets property owners take advantage of the installment option to repay back taxes over a three-year period without penalty has helped five property owners stay in their homes, said city Administrator Linda Peyton.

“If you can save one family, that’s positive,” Mayor Jesse Tweedle said.

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Payment installment plans, officially known as redemption installments, are the most recent effort to maintain neighborhoods. They follow the 2014 adoption of an ordinance that required abandoned homes to be registered.

The registration fee pays for cleanup and revitalization of neighborhoods.

Peyton said property owners can repay municipal liens that have not gone into foreclosure through redemption installments, instead of all at once.

“The payment installment option is a proactive approach in preventing foreclosure and/or property from becoming vacant or abandoned,” Peyton said.

The city sent out more than 100 letters to property owners with municipal liens in April informing them of their tax title lien amount and how they could still avoid foreclosure and the loss of their home.

Once an owner made contact with the city, the city offered the installment option if the owner could not pay the total amount due, Peyton said.

“Currently, the city has 157 municipal liens, and the estimated lien total amount is $2 million, if they were to be redeemed,” Peyton said.

The city initiative has led to 46 lien redemptions totaling $77,000, Peyton said.

People who did the lien redemptions did not need to do the payment installment plan option.

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The average city home assessment is $95,000, Peyton said. The average tax bill is $4,000. The city had a budget of $29 million last year.

When properties become unoccupied, it is important that they are registered in order to track criminal activity and dangerous conditions, officials said.

That’s where the city’s vacant and abandoned property initiative comes into play. Last year, officials identified 430 residential properties as vacant or abandoned among the 4,300 residential dwellings in the city.

“Ninety percent of the abandoned properties are owned by banks,” Tweedle said.

Owners, mortgagees or trustees are required to maintain abandoned properties in good condition and ensure the buildings are secured against unlawful entry, according to the ordinance.

The stabilizing and revitalizing of neighborhoods has a direct impact on the local economy and the city's ability to attract new businesses, Peyton and Tweedle said.

At Main Street and Washington Avenue, a new rental complex called City Center stands, which is expected to grow to about 250 units when completed. There are three street-level retail spaces on the ground floor of the first building.

Also on Main Street, on the south side of the Black Horse Pike, new facades, sidewalks and decorative bicycle racks can be found on the two blocks that feature Mambo Cafe and the Club Mia bar and restaurant.

“We are trying to attract other businesses to come here,” Tweedle said. “We meet with developers constantly ... to keep developers interested in our city.”

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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