Hyattsville's Vacant Houses Part Three: Filling in the Gaps
Hyattsville might not be able to keep people from walking away and leaving their houses vacant. But one councilwoman said it can work on bringing residents in.
Editor's Note: This is part 3 in a series on vacant homes in Hyattsville. After seeing dozens of "For Sale" signs and indications of uninhabited homes, Patch decided to give a general overview of how these vacancies are affecting Hyattsville.
A house at 3107 Kelliher Road, just down from the vacant Jamestown Road house, is empty because its owner died and the family has been caught up in the probate process, which began in March.
State real estate property data shows that the house is owned by Raymond and Dorothy Burch, and is their principal residence. Dorothy Burch, the home’s most recent inhabitant, died in February.
The 792-square-foot house sits on 6,904 square feet of land and was assessed in July at $163,000. Its base value was $267,530, records show. It was built in 1940.
Real estate property data show no previous owners.
From the road, the white house with green shutters appears to be taken care of. The grass is trimmed, though front bushes and trees are overgrown.
The city is aware of the number of vacant houses in West Hyattsville and warns and then cites owners who fail to maintain the property. But sometimes the owners cannot be found.
Paula Perry, a Hyattsville city councilmember who represents West Hyattsville, said the city is concerned about the number of vacant houses. However, with a tight budget, it cannot do much about them.
“We can’t force the banks to sell,” she said. “The best we can do is to promote Hyattsville to encourage others to move in.”
Why Hyattsville Anyhow?
This question has been sounded for years, including via a real estate blog by Greg Tindale, a former Hyattsville resident and real estate agent, and proprietor of the Why Hyattsville? blog.
The University of Pennsylvania conducted a case study of “smart growth” in two Maryland historic areas, including Hyattsville. Tindale’s work was used for the study, which outlines the ups and downs of developmental and population trends in Hyattsville.
Tindale is now an Adams Morgan resident and real estate agent selling homes in Washington, D.C. In 2006 and 2007 he appeared on the Hyattsville H4X podcast with Ward 2 residents Chris Condayan and Tim Rogers.
Newcomers choose Hyattsville for a variety of reasons, including the diversity of its residents and the overall sense of community within the city.
University Town Center and the newly built Arts District Hyattsville offer an urban feel in the suburbs and has brought Hyattsville to the forefront of D.C. destinations since 2008.
Those amenities are a part of the reason that Shani Warner and her husband Dave moved into the city in 2008. Since settling in, the couple has welcomed their first child and in May 2011 Warner won a seat on the city council.
“We are at the cusp of change in the city,” Warner told Patch in 2010 when she was interviewed for an article that asked much the same questions as Tindale’s blog.
Keep it moving
Doug McNamara, another recent addition to the city, called Hyattsville “incredibly convenient.”
And it turns out that convenience and the relative “walkability” of the city—in 2007 Hyattsville changed its logo from “A good place to live and work,” to “A world within walking distance”—might actually help counteract the crime problems associated with vacant houses.
“There have been some recent studies that suggest homes in transit-oriented, walkable communities are holding value better than communities without those features,” said city spokeswoman Abby Sandel.
A walk score is based on the distance to amenities including restaurants, shopping and other community resources. The walk score for Hyattsville City Hall is 72, meaning that neighborhood is “Very Walkable,” and most daily errands can be done without using a vehicle.
This number varies based on a physical address, but CEOs for Cities’ Walking the Walk report indicates that houses in a community with above average walkability are worth $4,000 to $34,000 more than those with only average walkability in the typical metropolitan area studied.
Editor's Note: The orignial version of this story incorrectly identified Shani Warner's husband. It has been corrected, we regret the error.