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Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017
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One of many condemned homes finally razed

BRANDON - Larry Eason waited years to see the abandoned home that marred his backyard view torn down. That finally happened Thursday. "I feel wonderful," Eason said. "It's fantastic." The home behind Eason's is one of about 50 on a slow-moving Hillsborough County demolition list. The Tampa Tribune reported on Eason's neighborhood's plight in October. The report prompted the county to take another look at the home, which was hit by lightning this summer.
Eason and many others who worry about abandoned foreclosure homes in their neighborhoods say the county's standard answer has been that it could take a year or longer to tear the home down. That's because the department handles more than 8,000 complaints a year, and few make it to the condemned list. That means if an owner of an abandoned home doesn't respond, the county is supposed to tear the structure down and place a lien on the property. But nearly 30 of the homes on the list have been there for at least a year, frustrating neighbors. The housing boom and bust that led to a foreclosure crisis also littered local neighborhoods with abandoned eyesores. Code Enforcement is overwhelmed and said in January it would work harder this year to tear down homes that can't be rehabilitated. However, the department still is struggling to speed up the demolition process. "We only have x amount of dollars to do demolitions," said Jim Blinck, of the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement department. "We try to do the worst of the worst." Consider the past fiscal year, which ended Sept.30. The county had $100,000 in its general demolition budget. At a cost of about $5,000 each, only 18 were torn down. In fiscal year 2010, taxpayers tore down 16 homes. The county also had $195,000 in federal grants for demolition in select low-income neighborhoods. But the county used only $28,090 of that money and tore down just four homes. Blinck said one of the reasons the money hasn't been used is because it's cumbersome to access to the cash. But he said his department is trying to work faster. It plans to tear down two more homes this year. Eason says he understands budget limitations, but thinks tearing down eyesores is a good use of taxpayer money. "lf there's ways to affect the economy this is sure one of them. make sure there's not blight in neighborhoods that are nice neighborhoods so that housing can sort of rise." Eason says he looks forward to a house rising up again in his neighborhood. But until that happens, he'll enjoy his new view.

sbehnken@tampatrib.com (813)259-7804 Twitter: 813-259-7804

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