Louisville takes new steps to fight vacant properties

Louisville takes new steps to fight vacant properties
Sherry Miller (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Sherry Miller (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Marim Smith (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Marim Smith (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Laura Grabowski (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Laura Grabowski (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The view from Sherry Miller's front porch isn't great. She's surrounded by five vacant homes and a vacant business.

"It makes me feel upset," Miller said. "I grew up here and everything, but it's just not the home that I grew up in." 

On the other side of her corner in the Portland neighborhood lives Marim Smith.

"They've been here at least about 10, about 10 years," Smith said. "They need to clean them up. You know, tear them down."

Louisville has about 5,500 vacant buildings and an additional 2,000 vacant lots. There almost all in West Louisville with the highest concentration in the Portland neighborhood. The city has a map of all of its vacant properties. 

This is not a new problem. There is, however, a new push to fix it.

Right now, Louisville Metro Council has given initial approval to two ordinances targeted to help vacant properties.

VIEW: Map of vacant properties in Louisville

One of the ordinances keeps banks or companies from owning tax liens and sitting on the properties. The other speeds up the process of calling a property blighted so something can be done with the home. It allows the city to deduct the cost of demolition, which can be around $11,000, from the fair market value of the home when the city purchases it.

For Louisville's Vacant and Public Property head Laura Grabowski the ordinances are a blessing.

"That to me and to us puts another tool in our toolbox," Grabowski said. 

The massive number of homes can attract unwanted visitors.

"There's raccoons. There's mice," Smith said. "There's cats, dogs, whatever. They want to live in those types of areas." 

Miller is more concerned with needles, drugs and her kids.

"We let them come out here in play, but sometimes we can't let them come out in play because they look like zombies walking around here," Miller said. 

LMPD's two most recent officer-involved shootings both occurred in vacant homes.

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Grabowski said her department works with both neighbors and police.

"It can be a bit overwhelming. I won't lie," she said. "They walk down the street. They see boarded up houses and they say why isn't the city doing something. Most of these properties aren't owned by the city."

Besides the local ordinances, a new state law changes the way taxes are handled on vacant properties the city sells and helps better fund the land bank authority.

Grabowski said as simple as it sounds, the department prioritizes homes that get the most complaints. It is also using new technology and a new system to target problem areas instead of sporadically approaching the issue.

WATCH: William Joy's report

"People should be able to see a visible impact and a definite change," Grabowski said. 

It's tough to be optimistic when your front porch view is so bleak, but Miller is trying to find hope.

"Maybe everything could change around here," she said. 

The city is also desperate for people to buy the vacant homes it does own. More information can be found on its website by clicking here.

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