Fifth Ward residents want city help to demolish abandoned homes

This home in the 2200 block of Jensen is one neighbors would like to see demolished

March 13, 2012 3:04:27 PM PDT
They're dangerous, they attract criminals, and bring down property values -- and neighbors want them gone. Old abandoned homes are literally falling apart in a northeast Houston neighborhood. So what, if anything, is being done about the problem?

On a quiet street, along Lavender near Liberty, tucked in the middle of the Fifth Ward we found homes no one would want for a neighbor.

Frustrated families on Lavender say they're dealing with a big neighborhood nuisance.

"It's just horrible," said neighbor Barbara Beal. "It's just like something out of another country."

Homeowners are calling nearly half the houses on the 2900 block of Lavender "abandoned or neglected properties."

"I'm glad somebody came out to see what we are talking about," said neighbor Sandra E. Richardson. "On paper, it's nothing. But if you can get to see what we live next to, maybe they'll do something."

The neighbors say some of the vacant homes are hazardous and caving in. They say others are raggedy, attracting too many rodents, squatters and other strange traffic. Neighbors say they're asking the city to do one thing.

"Demolished. Just clean them all up," Beal suggested.

"It is a serious problem," acknowledged Houston's Chief Development Officer Andy Icken. "It's one that we are trying to get our hands on right now."

Icken says the city is trying to tackle the abandoned property issue. Last month, council members approved $3.5 million from the affordable housing fund to demolish hundreds more homes. But Icken says the city's dealing with several challenges.

"Finding who the owner is, getting them to respond," he said. "That's the biggest challenge as we start here."

That reality isn't a good enough excuse for neighbors on Lavender who say they've been complaining about the eyesores for years.

Richardson said, "We need some help from somewhere and all we are asking is them to come in and help us."

Just like the city, we also had a tough time tracking down good contact information for those property owners. The city's next scheduled demolition day is May 19.