Kansas City tackles problem of vacant homes, abandoned buildings

If you live in Kansas City, odds are you live near or have driven by a vacant, abandoned, deteriorating building or home. (KCTV5)

If you live in Kansas City, odds are you live near or have driven by a vacant, abandoned, deteriorating building or home.

The hundreds of blighted properties have been eyesores, crime magnets and property value crushers for years in Kansas City, but the city is putting a full-court press on the problem.

During the summer of 2016, the city issued $10 million in bonds to tear down every one of the more than 800 structures on the dangerous buildings list over the next two years. In past years, it’s been difficult to keep pace with the growing list of buildings.

“They're all over the city. they're from the North to the south. They're everywhere,” said Shockey Franciscus, director of the city’s dangerous buildings department.

Franciscus has worked with the department for 15 years and says the boost in funding has helped turn things around because the cost of demolition alone can be as high as $8,500.

“We understand why people would be frustrated at times because they think it should come down faster. Ultimately we're trying to do what's right for the neighborhood,” said John Baccala, communications director for the city’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department.

Baccala says the those abandoned buildings are not only eyesores, but they can take up valuable city resources.

Each month, Baccala says firefighters are called to dangerous buildings an average of 20 to thirty times. Some of those buildings have burned multiple times before finally being torn down. The $10 million boost in funding and the donated time from multiple demolition companies has helped speed up what can be a tedious process.

View Dangerous Building Map in a full screen map

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland reports a foreclosed property can lower neighbors’ property value by 3.9 percent. The study found that loss in property value doubles if the house is blighted or abandoned.

“You can't just drive a bulldozer in and knock the house down. There's a lot of things that go into it the process involving abatement. You've got to make sure that everything is done properly-- water and electric is shut off in a lot of cases, especially given the age of the house, there's probably an asbestos problem,” Baccala said.

As of November 2017, the city reports of the 872 dangerous buildings listed, 636 have been taken off the list with demolition or rehabilitation. The number of buildings left total 230.

“It's always great when these things come down,” Baccala said. “There's a lot of work that goes into them, and more importantly I know how happy the neighbors are going to be to see this eyesore come down from their neighborhood.”

There is no guarantee when it comes to funding past this current fiscal year for the dangerous buildings department. Franciscus is hoping the city sees the value in the investment.

“Safe neighborhoods should be the number one priority,” Franciscus said.

For more information on the city’s dangerous buildings and how to report, click here.

Copyright 2017 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.


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