Let me absolutely clear here -- these properties have been vacant for 30 years and they are still vacant. The owner's refusal to sell, lease, rent, renovate or do anything with the property leaves Shaw with an island of urban blight. Not too long ago, the city took the positive step of condemning them in order to force repairs, as the historic properties were in danger of being lost.
On perusing the DCRA's Winter 2009 Vacant Property Listing and the online Real Property Assessment Database, I found that six of the seven vacant properties owned by Shiloh Baptist Church (or agents of the same) in Shaw are no longer classified as vacant (Tax Class 3) but are instead now classified as Tax Class 1 or 2 (Residential or Commercial, respectively) . Below is a breakdown of the classifications from the online Real Property Database.
Property Address Tax Class
1543 8th Street, NW 001 - Residential
1600 8th Street, NW 003 - Vacant
1526 9th Street, NW 002 - Commercial
1528 9th Street, NW 002 - Commercial
1532 9th Street, NW 001 - Residential
1533 9th Street, NW 001 - Residential
1534 9th Street, NW 002 - Commercial
By all appearances, all seven properties remain vacant (they are all boarded up) and not marketed for sale or lease. I can think of no justification for their tax classifications to have changed. Accordingly, I think this is an error (if not the result of gross negligence or corruption) and could result in lost revenue for the city. Further, it undermines the equity and effectiveness of the Class 3 tax class.
Shiloh should pay the Tax Class 3 tax on all seven vacant properties they own as if this mistake never happened and should not benefit from whatever has caused this reclassification.
Recently, the DC Council increased the vacant property tax rate to approximately 10x the occupied residential rate (previously, it was 5x the residential rate). Obviously, Shiloh did not want to pay what would be a massive amount of new taxes on this span of vacant property. Did they find someone at DCRA willing to switch the numbers for them from Class 3 (vacant) to Class 1 (residential) or Class 2 (commercial)? Did they find some valid exception?
The neighborhood, and all DC taxpayers, deserve an explanation.