Uninhabited Osceola houses to be demolished, make way for energy efficient homes

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) – In a new cleanup effort for Osceola, the city council wants to tear down dilapidated houses and build new homes for residents.

Mayor Dickie Kennemore said he wants to raze several uninhabited houses in the city and use the vacant lots to build energy efficient housing for low to moderate income families.

City council members introduced resolutions to tear down two houses located at 420 Center Street and 419 North Maple at the council meeting Monday.  Mayor Kennemore said a landlord recently turned over the deeds of ten vacant houses to the city. He estimates the city will take over hundreds more.

"We have an ordinance on the book that when a house becomes vacant we can put a red tag on it and then we won't hook up the utilities," Mayor Kennemore said.

The city can require the owners of dilapidated house to make repairs to the house before renting it.  If the homeowner does not make the house habitable, according to Mayor Kennemore, the city passes an ordinance to demolish the property and proceeds with it in 30 days.

"The expense we put out to tear it down, which usually is $2,500 to $3,500, we can file a lien against the property and literally go to court and get a judge to give us the title if that expense is not paid back."

Mayor Kennemore expects the new homes to increase safety and the property value of the neighborhoods in east Osceola. "There are homeowners in this neighborhood who have maintained their homes, but (the blight) adversely affected their property values over the years," he said. "Osceola seems to be moving west towards the interstate, new subdivisions, new houses, but there's a lot of streets, and subdivisions, and lots over here (where) the water and the sewer and streets are all in good shape. It's just the houses are slums."

"(Drug users) just get a blanket and get in there. We've had houses that's burned because it would be cold and they would start some kind of fire."

Barbara Williams lives across the street from an abandoned home that has been torn down. "I try to pick up the paper over there too because I don't want it to blow over in my yard and make it look bad."

Mayor Kennemore said the new homes would decrease utility expenses for homeowners. "It would probably be a $500 bill against an $80 or $90 bill."

Mayor Kennemore wants to work with organizations like Housing and Urban Development and Habitat for Humanity to begin building within the next few years.

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