There has been quite a bit of worry about homeless encampments in downtown Bellingham, but I hear that, by far, the biggest and most crime ridden encampment is out by Walmart.
From what I hear, much of that encampment is on some parcels of private property and in at least one case, the owner was (so I hear) unresponsive to the city.
Private property can make it harder for police to enter without following more rules such as getting search warrants, I guess. Meanwhile the downtown encampments are small and mostly on public property. Police keep a good eye on things. There aren't even that many encampments.
Seems like some people hold onto empty property for speculation, or maybe even tax write off. When the land value is too high, the property can sit unused and attract problems.
On the radio, from San Francisco, I've heard someone suggest increasing taxes on land so private individuals cannot profit as much from speculation. This could drive down the value of vacant land which would make it easier to finance putting a building on that land, or finding other uses for the land.
High land values can stifle more responsible use of land.
I remember that my dad was a fan of an economist named John Galbraith, back in the 1970s. I think Galbraith suggested that land inside a city should not be owned, but instead leased. Buildings, homes and businesses could be privately owned, however. I think there is too much profit from vacant land speculation.
I've seen some posts on Reddit about Bellingham's encampment near Walmart. Some say it's the worst in Western Washington. I don't know, but that could be the case.
I'm sure Walmart and apartment building owners near there are not happy with it, but large areas of vacant, private land can be problematic.
I seldom go to that neighborhood anyway as it's quite a ways out north and not as pleasant for bicycling.