WSAZ Investigates | The Eyesore Next Door Part Two
started becoming havens for crime and a danger to neighbors, WSAZ helped to expose the issue and concerns from those that lived close to them.
In February 2019, WSAZ highlighted dozens of homes in Huntington that were sitting empty. One of those homes was on 25th Street.
It had burned and neighbors told WSAZ they were seeing people constantly going in and out of it.
Almost a year later, we decided to return to that very spot to see what it looks like now. The lot is currently empty and is green space for something new to go in its place.
The home was torn down after our story aired in 2019, along with the house on the lot next to it.
"These properties are extremely detrimental on the value of a neighborhood when it's sitting abandoned and unsafe and overgrown and you have the nuisance calls and theft issues," said Capt. Matt Winters with the Huntington Fire Department. "Just instantly turning it into a vacant lot helps with the safety of the neighborhood and now there's that potential for an improvement."
Those two homes were just two of the more than 100 that were torn down across the city in a year's time, all part of Project B.A.N.E. which stands for Blight and Nuisance Elimination.
Huntington officials told WSAZ that is the most the city has ever torn down in such a short period of time.
"I think that's the key to seeing improvement and growth in the city," said Capt. Winters. "You have to get rid of some of the nuisance and problems, those have to be remedied and then you can start to plant those seeds for growth."
According to the Huntington Fire Department, there were 89 fires across the city in 2019. Of those, 39 were in vacant homes, accounting for about 40 percent of the total number.
Fire officials say the demolition numbers show they are making progress.
"It's an improvement and I think it shows we are making positive steps to improving the community," Winters said. "You take what was once a dilapidated, unsafe structure, you've now cleaned the lot and that's now a chance for somebody to build new and it's a chance for growth and improvement."
But still, many of these homes remain standing and a year later, we wanted to see how many. Right now, there are around 700 vacant homes or buildings in Huntington. About 150 of those have been declared unsafe.
Once a building or home is declared unsafe, Winters says they then prioritize which ones should come down first.
He says they look at a number of different factors including structural stability and the proximity to homes that are occupied.
According to Capt. Winters, the problem exists in neighborhoods across Huntington and sometimes it can take months or years before a home can come down.
He says that's for a number of different reasons. The first being they must do everything they can to get a hold of the homeowner and give them the option to fix up the property.
Another challenge is money. Tearing down a home can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000. That cost doesn't include if the home or building has asbestos.
As far as an updated number of homes the city plans to tear down in 2020, officials say they don't have that number yet.
They already have several on the list to come down. However, the number of teardowns depends on time and money.
Officials still encourage neighbors to call into the city to report homes that have become vacant and are causing issues.