Working with the owners of condemned structures and those in need of improvements has led to results, city officials say.
The city last year inspected 1,704 properties that had various code violations — some so bad that they needed to be demolished — while others had exterior damage, said Maureen O’Neil, the city’s neighborhood improvement coordinator.
Of that number, 613 made the needed repairs to their homes, and 123 others paid to have the structures demolished, she said.
“It’s a matter of educating people and giving them time and assistance to comply with our codes,” O’Neil said.
The city is continuing to focus on homeowner demolitions with five done so far this year and demolition permits given to 37 other homeowners to take down their structures during the next two months, said DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/ secretary. The expectation is that several more will agree to demolish their own properties, he said.
In comparison, there were 68 private demolitions in 2011.
On average, it costs the city about $7,500 to have a contractor demolish a residential structure because of federal regulations that require communities to test properties for asbestos before taking them down, Kitchen said.
But the cost is about half for a property owner for demolition because they don’t have to follow those same, strict federal regulations, and the city pays none of that cost, he said.
Those who have properties that can be saved but aren’t responding to letters from the property maintenance appeals board are being sent to hearings in front of attorneys in the city prosecutor’s office, O’Neil said.
Since August 2012, 121 cases have gone through prosecutor hearings with 37 in compliance, 47 working toward compliance, 11 taken down through private demolitions, 10 referred to the appeals board, five charged criminally and 11 others with pending criminal charges, O’Neil said.
Mayor Charles Sammarone set a goal of demolishing 1,000 homes this year. About 1,070 need to be demolished quickly among the 4,000 to 5,000 vacant houses in the city.
To date, 121 have been demolished with 177 more coming down in the next two months.
The city may fall short of Sammarone’s goal this year because it could run out of money, Kitchen said.
“Our goal is 1,000, but we’ll do as many as we can with the money we have,” he said.
There were 412 houses demolished last year and 304 in 2011.