High Point code enforcement cracking down on abandoned homes

HIGH POINT -- The City of High Point’s Code Enforcement Division is sending a clear message to property owners that they are serious about addressing blighted, abandoned homes.

The city’s 2017 Strategic Plan includes an initiative to be proactive in code enforcement, no longer waiting on complaints from the public or emergency responders.

In the last year, the department's staff has grown from two to six code inspectors, giving more manpower to handle the load.

Code Enforcement Manager Lori Loosemore said depending on the property and the particular owner situation, a solution of repairs or demolition can take up to six months.

“We have a process we have to follow through North Carolina general statute to notify all owners and that can be difficult sometime. Especially right now, a lot of property we're dealing with is so old and what's considered heir property, so you have multiple people who own it and we have to notify all those people,” Loosemore explained.

Abandoned homes within communities not only bring down the aesthetic look of the neighborhood but can be prime locations for illegal activity.

“We do find evidence of drug use, prostitution, all sorts of things, illegal activity that goes on and you know that's what we're trying to do is eliminate those locations for people to go in and do those bad things and cause those problems for the neighborhood," Loosemore said.

The city has increased the budget to handle the expense but ultimately it is the property owner’s responsibility to pay back the costs accrued.

Invoices for asbestos inspections, abatement and demolition are sent to a property owner with a deadline of payment. If payments are not made a lien could be placed on the property for 10 years until it’s paid in full.

“If it is not the city has ability to place it on your tax bills and collect that money as well, which we started doing last year,” Loosemore said.

Loosemore adds that demolitions are not the goal of the city, property owners have options beforehand.

“The city is serious about getting it done so don't take our letters or our follow-ups lightly,” Loosemore said. “You have the option to repair it or you have the option to tear it down, we just ask you do something.”

Since July 2016, 60 properties have been presented to city council, 34 of them have been demolished by the city.