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Savannah's Blight Fight: Taking care of abandoned homes comes at a cost

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Neighbors say this home on Bulloch Street suffered major damage from Hurricane Matthew, and the city is planning to demolish it. (Photo: Ian Dembling)

For years, the city of Savannah has dealt with vacant homes that aren't taken care of. The city says there are currently 2,285 vacant lots and structures throughout the city that they are aware of.

The numbers are increasing, according to Kimberly Corbin, Savannah's property maintenance director. She says in 2016, there were only 2,119 vacant lots/structures. One possible reason behind this increase, she says, could be Hurricane Matthew.

Some residents, like Christella Snyder, hope the city can work quicker to fix her neighboring homes that are not as well kept as hers.

“It’s hard to do this work and not see it all around me. I use to walk in this neighborhood but I don’t do that anymore because it’s not a pretty sight," Snyder said.

Corbin says the timeline varies when it comes to the city taking action on an abandoned home, but anyone who wants to report a home that isn't in accordance with their standards can call 311, or 912-651-6565. A staff member will go out to take a look within 24 hours.

“We can’t trespass on a property, we have to have permission," Corbin said. "Being vacant in and of itself is not a violation."

Here's a look at how much money the city spent in 2016 on blighted properties.

  • Demolition: $106,878.90 for 16 home demolitions
  • Mowing: $47,364.50 for 240 lots mowed
  • Boarding/Securing: $5,880.00 to board up 30 homes

The city is also rolling out a new initiative at the end of the month called Savannah Shines, where they will focus on a specific neighborhood and will put stricter ordinances in place in an effort to turn that neighborhood around. The city has yet to announce which neighborhood that will be.