Low residential vacancies and substandard living conditions persist in Craig and Moffat County
While building permits are picking up and the city is working to support residential development, there are still a number of local properties with substandard living conditions and buildings that need to be demolished, according to a local building official.
Marlin Eckhoff, who serves as the building official for both Craig and Moffat County, gave Craig City Council an annual community development report on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
During his report, Eckhoff said that building permit numbers were up in 2022 with 572 permits issued — 408 in Craig and 154 for Moffat County — between both entities.
Eckhoff explained that 2000 saw the highest number of permits issued in just the city with 539 permits for Craig that year. However, 2022 had the highest number of permits in Moffat County since the city took over administration of county building permits.
Compared with the previous five years, 2022 saw the highest number of new homes built, most coming from the county. According to the end-of-year report, new builds in the county included 26 year-round homes and four seasonal cabins. The city had three new stick-built homes and two manufactured homes.
According to Eckhoff, significant time and effort has been spent working with property owners on maintenance to remedy poor living conditions, and officials have also worked with owners to improve and create more residential units.
“We’re trying to get as much housing as we can in as many ways as we can, and obviously, new construction and development is expensive, so we’re trying to get that going,” Eckhoff said. “But we did work with several people in town to refurbish three different duplexes. Two are on one property.”
One property owner completely renovated two duplexes, and several other owners converted all or portions of small commercial buildings in mixed-use zones into residential dwellings. The renovations produced 11 additional bedrooms among seven properties.
Eckhoff said he also spent a lot of time working with owners on property maintenance this year and issued a large number of demolition notices. He didn’t, however, get as many buildings torn down as he would have liked, but he said there are a number queued for demolition next spring.
There have been demolition notices posted for seven local properties due to unsafe living conditions. Many of the properties were scheduled to be demolished prior to 2022 but were delayed because of the early snow this winter or a shortage of available contractors.
Some of the properties will require more involvement from the city than others to remove. At least four of the properties have known asbestos and will require some level of remediation. Two of the properties were quoted at $40,000 and $65,000 for remediation, plus additional resources to remove the buildings.
In those cases, the property owners were either older adults with health issues or deceased, and there are few funding resources available to help cover the costs for single-family home abatement, Eckhoff said.
Two properties have had ongoing issues with drugs and trespassing, and another that was damaged in a fire about five years ago has an owner who has been unresponsive and will likely need the city’s involvement to clean the properties, Eckhoff reported. Three additional properties were boarded up and condemned because of inactive utilities, as well as consistent illegal activity.
The city typically gives owners a chance to board up the homes themselves, but in some cases the owners were incarcerated, Eckhoff said. He added that condemning these properties, even without structural issues, makes it illegal for someone to enter them, so law enforcement can intervene if someone tries to enter the property.
The annual report raised some questions among City Council members about recent activity at local apartments with substandard living conditions, and Eckhoff replied that he’s done several inspections and condemned a couple of properties over the past few weeks.
“There have been four complaints in the last few weeks with apartment complexes,” Eckhoff said. “The multi-family units around town are pretty run down.”
One case reportedly involved Remington Village Apartments, where a crack in one unit’s drywall turned out to be a structural issue from snow on the roof. The tenant was moved to another unit so the damage could be repaired.
Council member Chris Nichols said he would hate to see some of these multi-family apartment buildings close, as it could displace hundreds of local families and leave them without any place to go, especially given that the availability housing is so scare.
Eckhoff said that the city can technically hire someone to do the work and then put a lien on the property, but that usually only happens if a building poses a public hazard.
“In general more of what we’re dealing with is poor living conditions,” Eckhoff said.
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