By Abigail Rybnicek

311 for Cities in Action: Vacant Properties with IRS Liens

In June 2014, the City of Danville, Virginia submitted a question to the National Resource Network’s 311 for Cities* feature. The city had five properties with federal tax liens that were owned by a now-defunct non-profit; they sought advice on how to initiate a process that would save the houses from “demolition by neglect.” The National Resource Network connected them with experts at the Center of Community Progress; a full write-up of the exchange can be found here.

As a follow-up, the Network connected with Danville’s Deputy City Manager, Ken Larking, and asked about his experience using 311 for Cities.

danville va logoWhy did the city decide to submit a question to the National Resource Network’s 311 for Cities feature?

In the summer of 2013, the City of Danville was invited to apply to be a part of a White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative. We were not selected to be a part of this program, but were offered an opportunity for occasional technical assistance should any issues arise that we believed they could provide assistance. Later, our contact with SC2 invited us to be one of the first few cities included in the National Resource Network’s 311 for Cities program.

Around the same time, we were dealing with a complicated legal issue involving several blighted structures that were owned by a now-defunct non-profit organization. The properties were tax exempt for property taxes, but had federal IRS liens for unpaid payroll taxes. We ran into several roadblocks attempting to acquire the properties in order to save them from “demolition by neglect.” We decided to see if the 311 for Cities program could offer us a path to a solution.

How was your experience?

Our team was pleasantly surprised by the quick response of the National Resource Network and the quality of the expertise that was offered. During the conference call, we spoke to an expert on blighted housing and received step-by-step suggestions for how to acquire the properties. We have since begun the process of changing the tax exempt status of the properties and retroactively applying taxes, so that we can conduct a tax foreclosure sale. We anticipate that we will acquire all of the properties, save the buildings with historic significance, and remove the other blighted structures – all of which will have a positive impact on the neighborhoods.

What other kinds of questions would you consider submitting through 311 for Cities?

We anticipate using the 311 for Cities feature in the future, especially for help dealing with specific issues where we have run into road blocks and/or lack the expertise.

*311 for Cities launched with the Network, but no longer exists. If you have questions about the feature or this response, please contact us at