Colorado

Jul 15, 2014 9:18 PM by Andy Koen

Demolition of condemned houses stalled by lack of funds

PUEBLO - Dozens of abandoned homes in Pueblo are sitting empty creating a public safety risk that the community has no money to address.

Nineteen abandoned houses are currently awaiting demolition and at least a dozen more would qualify for that list but for the time and expense necessary for inspectors from Pueblo Regional Building to appropriately condemn them.

Karen Willson, Code Enforcement Manager for the City of Pueblo, says the risks associated with a blighted home are numerous.

"It attracts vagrants, it attracts crime, if you have children who play in the neighborhood who happen to be out after school one day and decide let's go check out the scary house and then something collapse inside this home and people can get hurt," Willson said.

The longer they sit and rot, the more they drag down property values around them.

"As long as they stay here, it's really difficult for a neighborhood to recover from something like this," Willson said.

The city uses federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for demolition of condemned houses, but there wasn't enough money to go around this year.
Willson says the cost is simply too high for the city to absorb on its own.

"With asbestos abatement, a simple demolition like this one would cost the city between $40,000 and $50,000 to remove," she said.

There seems to be a heavy concentration of condemned homes on Pueblo's east side. At least 10 of the 31 condemned homes either slated for demolition or awaiting inspection by Regional Building are located in that neighborhood.

City Council Eva Montoya, who is also president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association, credits the problem to family members inheriting older homes without the money to repair them.

"The owners pass away and the children and relatives didn't want to take on the responsibility of a home and they kinda just let it go," Montoya said.

The city destroys abandoned houses because of the safety risk they pose, even though it never takes possession of the property. Code enforcement and regional building must first go through a research and notification process to find the property owner. The city's Department of Housing and Citizens Services then finances the demolition with the CDBG funds. Liens are then placed against the property for the cost of all the work.

Demolition isn't the only solution. Janet Wilson of the Occupy the Roads Foundation salvaged a historic home on East 5th Street by getting the owner to donate the property to her charity.

"Everything is savable," Wilson said. "It's just a matter of money and rolling up your sleeves."

She raised the money to pay off existing liens and then solicited donations and volunteers to help with the renovation. The building now doubles as Wilson's residence and a community center.

She has since acquired a second condemned down the block and is thinking about taking on third project with the condemned home next door.

The federal fiscal calendar begins and ends in June and another $100,000 in new CDBG funds for demolition of condemned houses should be available this month.

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