Southwest Louisiana has been having an extended conversation about how best to address vacant, underutilized, and adjudicated property. There is a concentration of 670+ adjudicated and vacant properties in the North Lake Charles area and along the I-10 corridor. Beyond those 670 adjudicated properties, other properties are vacant, underutilized, or not contributing to community stability.
The priority of the City of Lake Charles is to prevent properties from becoming abandoned, adjudicated, or underutilized in the first place and to facilitate the redemption of adjudicated property and lots by the heirs and owners when possible. It should be important that individuals and families in North Lake Charles be provided the tools and support to facilitate that transfer of property between generations. The first effort must be to create a standing estate planning and succession program made up of volunteer, and pro-bono attorneys that can educate the public on the importance of estate planning and assist in proceedings after the owner(s) have passed away. Ideally, this will ensure more family properties have clear titles and are owned by rightful, responsible heirs. Direct discussions with heirs may result in possible solutions such as curing the liens or identifying owners who are interested in selling their properties. Only after employing these preventative strategies should the City and Parish pursue strategies to address property that is still adjudicated or underutilized.
The dedicated staff is needed to keep detailed records of these properties, follow due process in the adjudication process, and move the issue forward with measurable progress. An entity is needed to hold strategically and assemble land, clear title issues on adjudicated (tax delinquent) properties, and help implement redevelopment projects that contribute to community needs (such as housing).
There are 670+ adjudicated properties in the North Lake Charles area alone on the I-10 corridor, in addition to others throughout the parish. These properties require maintenance at an annual expense to Lake Charles and the rest of the parish.
Migration away from Cameron Parish following storm events means that properties are often left vacant and/or underutilized. Strategies for addressing these properties are critical to giving Cameron Parish tools to use land strategically in the future.