City's plan to sell property to curb deficit unfruitful

April 8, 2011 8:21:34 PM PDT
The city of Houston is trying something different to raise money to close its budget deficit for next year. It's a plan not everyone agrees with.

The city is facing a multi-million dollar budget hole and it's expected to be handing out pink slips as early next month, so it's been trying to sell a lot of property. But trying to sell them and trying to get people to buy them are two totally different things.

At the Center Street recycling center, the only thing more prominent than the green recycling bins is the giant for sale sign.

"I actually just saw the sign driving up to recycle," Houston resident Borris Antoniewicz said.

Antoniewicz doesn't understand why the city of Houston would want to sell a busy acre of land.

"You would think that the first land we would go after or try to sell would be empty lots, not lots that are being used for other purposes," Antoniewicz said.

But the city needs money, so the former juvenile detention center on West Dallas, some property by the big airport -- even the library system's administration building -- are all for sale. The problem is there aren't that many buyers.

"Certainly the marker is not where it used to be, and the city of Houston is no different than anyone else trying to sell property," City Controller Ronald Green said.

Green warned City Council months ago not to count on property sales to balance the budget. Despite websites touting the benefits of the city's land, only two out of 17 available properties have closed so far.

Even prime real estate in the shadow of downtown could have problems. A piece of property on Gillette Street will not sell in time to help the city plug its budget hole.

"It's certainly not money you can depend on," Green said.

While millions of dollars worth of surplus property remain unsold, the one property that's often used by Houstonians, -- the recycling center -- does have a buyer lined up, which means you' won't be recycling there much longer.

"Yea it's a shame, well I hope they can relocate all this so that we can continue to use this service," recycling center user Mike Murphy said.

That recycling center property is expected to be sold to its neighbor, a private company.

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