Some Augusta residents are seeing some big problems with the abandoned homes left in the area. (WRDW-TV / June 20, 2012)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, June 20, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Overgrown weeds, broken glass and boarded up windows and doors are a familiar sight in a lot of Augusta neighborhoods.
Hundreds of abandoned houses are scattered throughout Richmond County, and neighbors say they are increasing the crime and decreasing the property value.
Steve Lathem has owned his home on Fenwick Street in Harrisburg for 12 years.
"It was wonderful," he said. "Everybody knew everybody, flowers in the yard and talking over the fence to our neighbors and it was just a wonderful place to live."
But over the years, he's seen the neighborhood he once knew turned completely upside down.
"From top to bottom," he said. "It has overturned, but it is on the rise again. We've cleaned up the neighborhood, most of the drugs are gone, people are beginning to know their neighbors and so forth again, so it's on its way back."
But it's going to have a hard time rising back up until all the abandoned homes are gone.
"That's a very deterring, a very heartbreaking thing to know that I'm out here trying to do everything I can to improve my property and those owners are just letting it go," he said.
On his block alone, four homes are abandoned.
"Once you have a house abandoned, especially if its boarded up, it's just a matter of time before the rest of the neighborhood will begin to lose value," said Realtor Gwen Fulcher Young.
Thomas Evans lives next door to three abandoned homes and across the street from one.
"I think a lot of people would move back to the neighborhood if a lot of these condemned houses are gone," he said.
Condemned homes that neighbors are tired of seeing every day.
"If the owners don't want them, allow the city to tear them down and put something there that's gonna be constructive for the neighborhood," Evans said. "Not just have something here that's just gonna bring down everybody else's property. It's just not fair."
Unfortunately, it's not always easy contacting the property owners. They may not even be in town. The city of Augusta also has a pretty small budget when it comes to tearing down the worst of the worst properties.