Mice, mosquitos and mischief. Those are only a few issues associated with abandoned homes are they're creating big problems across Tampa Bay.
Largo now has an innovative new program to get more homes torn down and replaced with something new.
The idea is to waive code enforcement liens for non profits like Habitat for Humanity and Bright Community Trust to demolish and fix up eyesores and build something new.
Jerome Freeland Jr. is a Largo homeowner who has been wanting to do the same thing with a home near him on 1411 7th St NW. The home has been vacant and dilapidated for nearly 10 years. "It's a giant fenced in dump in the neighborhood. I want to fix it up and make it look better,” Freeland explained.
But there’s one big obstacle in his way: Several hundred thousand dollars in code enforcement liens and Largo leaders want him to cough up the cash before buying it and making any improvements.
“It’s just frustrating there is nothing you can do about it," Freeland said with a sigh, “They have these signs up that say ‘Beautify Largo’ well, help me beautify my neighborhood.”
John Goldsmith has the same problem in his multi-million dollar Largo neighborhood. “Broken windows, boarded up doors. It’s actually a pretty scary place,” Goldsmith said in reference to an abandoned 2-story mansion on Margolin Lane.
In Largo, there are more than 250 homes that have fallen into disrepair, and the code enforcement liens can range from $100 to a quarter million dollars!
The home just down the block from Goldsmith has one of the highest liens in the city.
Largo hopes launching their new innovative program will help by first waiving liens for non-profits, and soon want to offer the same deal for all buyers.
Marquaz McGhee of Bright Community Trust says his organization has already saved thousands of dollars by not having to pay the liens. "We're talking about the difference between being able to afford to purchase these homes and walking away. By the city of Largo relieving those liens it makes all the difference in the world.”
Curtis Holmes Largo's vice mayor wants to get rid of the liens for developers too. “We are kind of playing pioneer on this thing to see if it works out. If it works here, it’s going to work elsewhere. If someone wants to come in and tear down these eyesores, it's good for everyone and we get that home back on the tax roll.”