Planning and Development Director
Instead, the problem properties -- homes and occasionally businesses whose owners have died, disappeared or simply given up, leaving behind a trail of unpaid taxes, vandalism, disintegration and overgrowth -- remain, accompanied by drops in neighborhood property values and a lack of interest from developers.
"If I was a businessperson coming in a new area, I don't think I'd like (that)," said hairstylist
Out the window, Boone said she'd seen construction workers who she thought were fixing up a
A former mill village, Harrisburg has its share of blight and abandoned properties, but the problem spares none but the newest of
In all, some 284 individual properties on 148 different city streets across five ZIP codes make up the current "public officer" list, meaning they're at some stage of the lengthy legal process required to tear them down, according to a list provided by
Progress toward more demolitions has been made, though the number is up from a year ago when there were only 160 open cases. But without additional funding, the demolitions will stop after crews complete approximately 36 demolitions authorized for
The demolitions, Phase 1 of what Wilson said was a
Among the city's worst areas are the historic Laney-Walker and
"When I'm down here in the city, it's ridiculous how many buildings are" nuisance properties, he said. "They're not even boarded up. Kids come through here."
Demolishing even the smallest residence can prove costly, as each site must be tested for and cleared of hazardous material such as the asbestos, which is common in older structures, Wilson said. The typical structure costs from
Burned houses, another unsightly but common presence on the list, require even more work as hazardous materials must be removed by hand, bagged and disposed of differently, according to Wilson.
As the cleared, vacant lots increase in number, "the hope is that you get enough synergy going in, having a big enough area demoed" that a developer might purchase the site from the city land bank and return it to the tax rolls, she said.
The biggest challenge for the department is tracing ownership of the properties, which might have been passed down to heirs by owners without a will.
Even if the city completes the 284 demolitions, the city has already identified another 250 structures likely to require action.
Despite the addition of codes enforcement staff, it is often difficult to force an absent or impoverished property owner to make improvements to prevent a property from deteriorating further, particularly in property rights-friendly
"The problem is people having the money to deal with it," Wilson said. "If no funds are available, you're just citing someone and taking them to court."
One of those properties could be a
At first, her heirs came by the
The property has already been through one tax sale -- Tax Commissioner
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