Ridding the Neighborhood of Squatters

The street where I live is mostly older homes on one end, and homes converted to law and government offices on the other end. Stand on the offices end and you have an unobstructed view of the state capitol building. Stand on the other end and you have an unobstructed view of three ramshackle, abandoned buildings.

The abandoned buildings—two houses and one large office building–are owned by the same person, and all have been in increasing states of disrepair for years. The more dilapidated they’ve become, the more they’ve attract squatters and thugs. Neighbors complain of being harassed by the dregs who hover around the buildings, vehicle break-ins have gone up and property values gone down. Something has to be done.

A couple of weeks ago I and a few neighbors filed a complaint about the abandoned buildings to the city’s code enforcement office Nothing much changed. A few boards were put up on one building, and cheap windows were put into another. Then the boards fell down with the next heavy rain, and hooligans knocked out the windows.

I’ve seen more and more squatters over there too as the buildings have fallen into greater disrepair. I saw a few today, and again I called the police. But I know that the solution lies with the property owner, the city’s code enforcement office and my neighbors who are also upset about this problem.  So, tomorrow I’ll start calling the city daily to learn what, if anything, the city is doing to enforce the law. The houses are a nuisance, and the property owner has to be civilly forced to keep up the property since he’s clearly unwilling to do so independently.

Not coincidentally, the night I was mugged I was walking past those abandoned buildings. That area is a poorly lit danger zone, the place most likely to run into thugs. I don’t blame the homeless people for making it that way; I blame the property owner. His disregard for this neighborhood is appalling. Fortunately, a few of my neighbors and I are fighting back. I’m not the only one who filed a complaint with the city, and I won’t be the only one doing so again tomorrow. Working together, my hope is we can get those buildings boarded up and quickly demolished or restored.

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