No one likes to see rundown houses in their neighborhood, but more and more of them are popping up in local communities in southern Illinois.
West Frankfort, Illinois, was home to 15,000 people, but today it’s just 8,000.
There, 9.4 percent residents are unemployed, leaving rundown houses on nearly every block.
Every day when West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan looks out the front door of his house, he has to look at a vacant, rundown house. Jordan says that's a problem that's become all too common throughout his city.
"They become an eyesore . They become a safety issue for the police department, because kids go in there,” said Jordan. “They're a fire issue from the fire department's point of view, because we have several buildings that burn down because no one really has an interest in them."
If a property owner hasn’t paid their taxes in three years their lot is sold at public auction.
West Frankfort Code Enforcement Officer Ed Hammonds says the city targets overgrown properties with no hope of rehabilitation.
"They're to the point where they're collapsing,” said Hammonds. “Roofs cave in, and once a roof caves in water gets inside. Then it's complete and total devastation."
The city recently purchased 18 homes at an average cost around $650, with plans to demolish the structure and flip the property to anyone interested.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot more of these buildings than we're getting, so it's something that's going to continue,” said Jordan. “We won't run out of buildings, I promise you. It's just going to make our community look better."
By tearing down old, rundown properties and working with Habitat for Humanity, West Frankfort has already been able to add four new houses back to the tax roll.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these properties once they have been cleared off, click here.
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