Foreclosed properties falling into disrepair will come back to haunt the banks that own them, if the Hesperia City Council has its way.


Tuesday night, the council directed staff to develop a foreclosed property management program that would identify foreclosed properties falling into a blighted state and then penalize the new owners if they did not bring the buildings back into good repair.


"There's a higher than normal amount of foreclosure properties" in the city, Hesperia's Principal Planner, Dave Reno, said Wednesday. The city estimates there are approximately 1,400 foreclosed-on properties in Hesperia. "You have bank-owned properties and which are in some state of foreclosure ... sitting around, unmaintained. ... They have a blighting effect on the community."


Weeds grow in the yards of vacant houses as newspapers pile up in the driveway. Eventually, vandals move in, breaking windows and covering flat surfaces with graffiti.


The proposed program would identify who owns a foreclosed-on property -- some banks are now employing holding companies to make it harder on cities to do so, according to the staff report presented to the city council -- and then hold the owner accountable for the state of the property. In addition to keeping the property maintained, owners would be required to hire a property manager to keep an eye on the site and post a sign with contact information at each location, so that neighbors could alert them to when the property was falling into disrepair again.


Unpaid fines -- which can reach $500 per day per violation -- would be assessed as liens that the seller would have to then pay off prior to selling the property to a new owner, theoretically creating an incentive to keep the properties in good repair.


"Rialto has been extraordinarily successful with this program," Councilman Russ Blewett said Tuesday. Rialto is one of six Southern California cities, contacted by Hesperia's staff, that have a specific foreclosure property management program, and six more roll the task into other property management programs.


"All of them just use existing staff or existing staff resources to either part-time or full-time address the program in a full-time way," said Reno.


The council will vote on implementing a program later this year, once city staff have fleshed out both the program and the associated ordinance.


A foreclosure property manage program could also be a boon to Hesperia's unemployed construction workers, according to Blewett, as they would likely be among those hired by the banks to rehab foreclosed properties.


"I don't see how it could do anything but help," he said.


The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on June 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.