Kansas City is trying a new strategy to force landlords of dilapidated buildings to clean up their act.
If you were anywhere around the Ivanhoe neighborhood of Kansas City Tuesday, you saw unsafe houses being bulldozed.
Kansas City has thousands of abandoned and dangerous buildings. Now, the city is stepping up efforts to tear some of those buildings down and Wednesday the mayor lent a hand to the destruction.
Phase one means 157 dangerous homes and buildings are about to disappear from the landscape and history of Kansas City. Wednesday was an official jump start to a massive project.
Kansas City, MO, Mayor Sly James could be seen at the helm of a bulldozer, knocking down just one of 157 dangerous homes and buildings throughout the metro.
"That was a blast. I haven't gotten to tear anything up like that in a long time," James said with excitement in his voice.
"It was a thrill. I said, ‘Go mayor, go, go,'" Ivanhoe resident Lela Williams said.
For Williams, the sound of the houses crumbling is a welcome one. After 42 years in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, she said things have changed.
"When I first moved into the Ivanhoe area, you'd come down The Paseo and see beautiful flowers, trees with blooms, all around beautiful," she said.
But over the past several years, homes have been abandoned, neglected, and that brings with it a whole other host of problems. KCTV5's Amy Anderson showed viewers the day before what is often found in these homes – they attract drug activity and prostitution and create added dangers.
Wednesday's action was the first step in a process voters played a big role in.
"So when the voters approved that sales tax in August, that's how we're going to take care of these buildings. We're going to use it to get rid of eye sores and dangerous buildings - not just here, but across this entire city," James said.
For the people who've been waiting for so long, it was an important step in the right direction.
"We still got work to do. We got a long way to go, but we're going to conquer this here," Williams said.
The average cost to remove a home like the ones being bulldozed Wednesday is about $7,000 per house.
James said demolishing so many at once will bring the cost down to about $5,500 each and said the city will use small contractors, putting more people to work in the Kansas City metro.
Demolishing homes is just one potential outcome of a push to clean the city up, and the other is arrest.
"Abandoned properties, they could almost be considered cancerous to neighborhoods. Once an abandoned property takes hold, we start to see the decay of the neighborhood," Officer James Schriever said.
Schriever sees homes abandoned or neglected all too often and the problems that come from them. He gets calls and emails from concerned neighbors on a daily basis.
"As of today, I received two emails - one included four problem properties that are of grave concern for the neighborhood's safety," Schriever said.
He took KCTV5's Amy Anderson to one problem house to show an abandoned home that's attracting what no neighborhood wants to see.
"This gives you an indication of what the interior of these houses look like (motions to trash and debris everywhere and damage to walls and ceilings). The open access… there are obvious indicators of drugs and prostitution activity," Schriever said.
Kansas City, MO, police, along with the city, are cracking down and arresting homeowners who ignore repeated warnings to clean up. It puts a strain on officers but, in many cases, could prevent dangerous crimes in the future.
"It's a big problem," Larry Gleason said.
Gleason's been spending his free time doing upkeep on a house and yard that aren't even his, all because he wants a safe neighborhood for everyone, especially the children and seniors.
"It's just that neighbors have to be neighbors. We have to participate and keep things straight - others will trash it if you don't watch it," Gleason said.
There are thousands of housing warrants in Kansas City, and police said if you have one and don't come forward, they'll likely be knocking on your door too.
Copyright2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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