The City Council of Council Bluffs passed a new Vacant Property Registration program in October 2022. This ordinance aims to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of Council Bluffs citizens by requiring the registration of all vacant property and the payment of an annual registration fee to be used for monitoring, inspecting, and recording the condition of the vacant property. Registering vacant properties helps preserve properties and reduce fires, life safety hazards, and unlawful activities such as vandalism and temporary occupancy by transients.
For the purpose of the program, the City of Council Bluffs defines a vacant property as a one or two-family residential dwelling that is unoccupied or illegally occupied as a dwelling.
The program allows the City to create and maintain a database of unoccupied dwellings in Council Bluffs. City staff, including Police and Fire, will now be able to utilize the database to identify vacant properties during calls for service. The list also allows first responders to quickly find contact information for property owners or managers when necessary.
The fee for registering a vacant property in Council Bluffs is $300 per year per vacant unit, and annual registration is required. The fee covers the cost of the program, including the cost of the City inspecting vacant properties. The registration form can be found online at: councilbluffs-ia.gov/2522/Vacant-Property-Registration/
"We created this program to protect the integrity of the neighborhoods where vacant properties exist," said Courtney Harter, Community Development Director for the City of Council Bluffs. "Other cities with similar programs have seen an increase in unoccupied or uninhabitable properties returning to safe residential units."
In general, vacant property registries assure neighbors that an abandoned or foreclosed home in their neighborhood will not diminish the value of their home, therefore, they can continue to maintain, repair, or upgrade their home with confidence in their investment. This combined action helps stabilize surrounding property values and assists neighborhoods in fighting blight.
Certain properties are exempt from the fee, including dwellings with a current "for rent" or "for sale" listing, a valid building permit, or a valid development agreement. Additionally, a residence left vacant for less than 120 days (i.e., snowbirds vacationing all winter) is exempt from the fee.
Additional information can be found on the City's website at councilbluffs-ia.gov/2522/Vacant-Property-Registration. For questions regarding the registry, please contact the Community Development Department at (712) 890-5350.