City works to address blighted homes

The city of Mobile is making moves to fight blight. Mayor Sandy Stimpson has introduced legislation he hopes will speed up the process of addressing dilapidated, dangerous homes.

Officials estimate there are roughly 1,200 blighted structures in Mobile.

These homes can bring down neighborhood property values and make some homeowners feel uneasy.

Darlene Thomas, who lives on Dunbar Street, has 13 grandchildren. She doesn't feel safe letting them play outside alone because of the abandoned property next door.

"It scares me. Like someone might be living in there, or dead you know? I got one vacant place next door to me. It was a daycare and now it's raggedy, tore all up, and when I walk out my backdoor I always look over in there," said Thomas.

Blighted homes are a common sight on Dunbar Street.

Most are boarded up. But some are open and accessible for anyone who may want to go inside.

"Those homes that are abandoned and open to the public become havens for criminal activity," said Jeff Carter, Executive Director of the city's Innovation Team.

Carter said right now it can take up to 2 years for the city to legally be able to go onto someone's private property and board up a home.

If the city council approves legislation currently on the table for discussion. he said the city will be able to address problem homes much quicker.

"The owner will have 20 days. If the owner doesn't fix it in 20 days, the city will be able to act in 30 to 90 days," said Carter. "And the way that will be paid for is a tax lien will be placed against the property for whatever it cost."

Carter said there's no silver bullet for fixing the problem, but he hopes landlords will step up and take pride in what's theirs.

"By taking action, securing the home and liening the property for the amount of the action, we create that opportunity for them to say OK I really need to do something about this property," said Carter.

A public hearing on the proposed law change will be held May 24th.

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