Florence neighbors concerned over destruction of abandoned properties

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) - Monday, the City of Florence introduced a new ordinance that will use a $571,000 grant from the SC Housing Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) to tear down and rebuild abandoned homes.

What most would see as a positive for their neighborhoods - city officials tearing down dilapidated homes - residents of one older community say could bring a demand for unwanted to change to their own homes.

Jessie Sanders has lived in her home near North Vista Elementary for more than 40 years.

"I'm older and some of my neighbors are older," explained Sanders. "We are not going to be here a whole lot more years. I just hope my boys will take care of our house."

Sanders said the area is primarily older African Americans. She is happy the city is moving forward with tearing down abandoned homes but she does not know what to expect when new homes are rebuilt.

"They will probably want the people that live on this street to update [their homes]. Most of us don't have the finances to do that," Sanders said.

City council transferred eight homes to the Florence Downtown Development Corporation (FDDC). The FDDC oversees the NIP grant the city used to purchase abandoned homes. The plan is to demolish them and rebuild or create green space. Council members Teresa Myers Ervin and Pat Gibson Hye-Moore expressed concern about transferring the homes to the FDDC nonprofit organization since it does not focus on neighborhood redevelopment.

General Services Director Scotty Davis explains the grant will even out the property values in areas with abandoned properties.

"When you have houses that are falling down and are dilapidated, it has a negative value on the existing units in that neighborhood," explained Davis. "Removing those will certainly stabilize those values and hopefully increase values of existing housing units."

The city says it is transparent with people in the East, North and South Florence neighborhoods.

"Here is what we're doing. Here are housing that we have purchased by willing sellers. We are not taking anyone's property. We are working with willing sellers. This can only help the neighborhoods," said Davis.

Davis says the goal is to redevelop the roads and homes while slowly increasing the property value over time.

"That is a positive for a neighborhood. It is certainly not a negative," explained Davis. "If you bought a house for $80,000 and over time the value increases to $100- $110,000. That is generally seen as a positive."

Davis said the grant will expire in November, making time a determining factor in moving forward. The second reading of the ordinance will be at next month's council meeting.

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