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Coral Gables

Coral Gables wants banks to take care of foreclosed homes

Coral Gables is stepping up its efforts to make sure banks maintain foreclosed homes.

City commissioners tentatively approved an ordinance Tuesday that increases the annual cost of keeping a property on the city’s registry of abandoned homes, allows police to issue trespassing warnings on those properties, and allows the city attorney and city manager to take legal action against the lenders.

Commissioners touted the move as a way to keep banks on track in dealing with abandoned properties and getting them back on the market so that property values don’t suffer.

“It sounds to me like another arrow in our quiver,” Mayor Jim Cason said. “We certainly don’t want to lose property values.”

The registration fee is going from $200 to $600 annually. According to the ordinance, this is to cover the city’s “additional costs in monitoring the property.” Registration will give police the ability to issue trespass warnings to squatters.

In cases where a home has been left to languish too long, City Manager Pat Salerno would be able to authorize City Attorney Craig Leen to seek an injunction or initiate foreclosure proceedings.

“This is not imposing a duty on the city to file action in every case,” Leen said. “It’s in appropriate cases.”

Commissioner Vince Lago said that, after speaking with residents, he thought the ordinance was necessary.

“This is a prevalent problem that’s not only affecting safety, but it’s also affecting property values,” he said. “I don’t think it’s too harsh. I think it’s right in line with what our residents deserve.”

According to a search on the website for real estate information company RealtyTrac, 94 homes in Coral Gables are listed as bank-owned.

The commission also approved plans for a 9,000 square-foot, two-story addition at the historic Temple Judea, 5500 Grenada Blvd.

Rabbi Peter Knobel said the temple, built in 1965 for the city’s only Reform congregation, plans to add more classroom space so that preschoolers and older youth and adult groups who meet in the afternoon don’t have to share classrooms.

“It really enables us to serve both the little ones in a space that is appropriate for them and the older ones that need a different kind of space,” he said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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