Abandoned houses a nuisance to Columbus and Phenix City resident - WRBL

Abandoned houses a nuisance to Columbus and Phenix City residents

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Abandoned house on Dairy Road in Phenix City Abandoned house on Dairy Road in Phenix City
Condemned houses on 6th Avenue in Columbus Condemned houses on 6th Avenue in Columbus
Condemned house on 6th Avenue in Columbus Condemned house on 6th Avenue in Columbus
Condemned, burned house on 3rd Avenue in Columbus Condemned, burned house on 3rd Avenue in Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ga. -

You can find them in almost every city in the country, houses in disrepair, and Columbus and Phenix City are no exception.

Columbus Inspections and Code director Greg Coates says cases of abandoned houses are on the rise, and they're causing problems all around the valley.

From July 2012 to July 2013 Columbus condemned 127 houses. 56 have been added to the list in fiscal year 2014 so far.

At the Aug. 13 city council meeting members voted to demolish 19 vacant houses that have become eyesores to their community, costing the city $113,830.90.

Coates says demolition is the last resort. "We have a really good record of finding the owners," he says, "or getting someone who is in relative care of the property to do what is needed to maintain the property."

In Phenix City, however, one property has been in a constant state of disrepair for over seven years. Neighbor Evone Dotson says, "If my property looked like that, I feel like they would fine me. They would make me do something with my property, and I just feel like they should make him do something with his."

Dotson brought the house to the city's attention in 2007 when the property owner refused to take care of it. It went to council and they didn't vote. Calls to the Phenix City code enforcement office regarding condemned properties went unreturned.

Abandoned houses aren't just an eyesore to their community. They also attract a number of hazardous conditions.

"Oftentimes in the cold months if a house is unsecured," says Coates, "we find that people will go in there, maybe some of the homeless people will go in there and start a fire to keep warm and it kind of gets out of control. Next thing you know the house is ablaze."

"It's snakes over there," says Dotson of the abandoned house across the street. "They crawl over here. My neighbor, she just killed a snake the other day right next to her yard, and she cut all of her beautiful flowers down because it's a nuisance."

Dotson says kids in can't even walk down the street safely, and people in other neighborhoods say they're ready for the houses to go.

Of the 19 houses set to be demolished, the city first notified owners about making repairs between 2010 and 2012. Most of the property owners list PO Boxes as their address, and in all cases no work has been done on the buildings for more than a year.

In Columbus before a house is condemned, owners must be allowed to attend a hearing and subsequently have 45 days to make necessary repairs.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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