Problem of dilapidated houses won’t fix itself

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dozens of ramshackle homes around the city fit the same description. They’re abandoned, have been that way for years. Many are “heirship properties,” meaning that generations have passed since the homes were last occupied and today, under state inheritance laws, they may have three or four dozen owners residing all over the nation, if not all over the globe, who may not even know they’re a shared owner of the remnants of a structure in Vicksburg. The ramshackle homes, most of them collapsing, are a blight on the neighborhoods where they’re located.

Some could be fixed up. Some could again provide decent, habitable shelters. If not, the lots could be cleared for new construction. Any option, however, depends on whether an heir is interested. If not, any potential investor will discover the cost of finding all the heirs and obtaining a clear deed that exceeds any revenue the property would generate.

The City of Vicksburg did not create this reality. It is, however, up to the city to deal with it.

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When campaigning, Mayor Paul Winfield had much to say about what he thought was then-Mayor Laurence Leyens’ too-aggressive approach. Winfield thought Leyens was depleting Vicksburg’s private housing stock for low-income residents, forcing poor people into the streets. Upon taking office, Winfield announced an immediate halt to any planned demolitions, ending years of tedious background work by city inspectors.

Last week, the mayor was presented with the file of a vacant and dilapidated home at 840 Buck St. It is a hazard. It is beyond repair. Legal hurdles had been cleared to order it razed. A decision was put off until Monday.

There’s no telling what the Mayor and Aldermen will do. Doing nothing, however, should not be an option. Ignoring this problem will not make it go away.