TAMPA - The North Tampa neighborhood between Busch Boulevard and Linebaugh Avenue certainly has a distinct style. Broken windows, illegally dumped garbage, and piles of decayed building materials line streets of blighted homes.
This place is kind of a dump," Mark Helvenston said.
Mark and his younger brother, James, aren't surprised their parents chose to rent a house in the neighborhood. They looked for the cheapest option available.
The two attend a nearby college and take study breaks by walking nearby streets, taking in the view of all the trash, weeds, and deteriorating properties, just like all the kids who ride by on their bikes.
"No one seems to be building them, moving into them, or fixing them up. They just sit there," James said.
Thursday, however, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced plans to force violators to do something about properties like the ones in the Helvenston's neighborhood.
"I told our staff, I said, 'I'm tired of the excuses,'" Mayor Buckhorn said. "'Go do something about it, and if you don't, there are going to be repercussions from me.'"
City records show tens of thousands of code violations over the last few years. Some were highly publicized, like the condemned trailers run by former Port Authority Chairman Hoe Brown.
Last November, code enforcement condemned a mobile home park with 20 years of violations after ABC Action News exposed the health and safety hazards. Greenpark Residences is now decaying in legal limbo.
"If you did this to a pet, what some of these people do to other human beings, you would've been in jail," Mayor Buckhorn said.
Mayor Buckhorn admits, they can't make arrests, but do plan to make life difficult for violators. Starting July 21, code officers will sweep three chronically blighted neighborhoods, 7-days a week, working 18-hour days for 30-days.
Those areas cover Florida Avenue east to 22nd street between Busch Boulevard and Linebaugh Ave.; Central Avenue east to Florida Avenue between Bird St. and Sligh Ave.; 50th Street east to 58th street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to I-4.
Officers will hand out fines and set court dates. The next step, according to Mayor Buckhorn, is figuring out how to enforce that action.
"Some of these folks just ignore it and we have no recourse," he said. "We're trying to go after the rental units and the slum landlords that are really a blight in the neighborhood."
The Helvensten brothers hope it works, and say if it does, maybe they'd stop renting a home and actually buy one.
"Make people want to live here. People don't want to move into a neighborhood that's got junk everywhere," Mark said.
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