Battling Blight in the North Valley

Merced, CA Hundreds of foreclosed homes spread throughout Merced serve as visible reminders of tough economic times. Those who live near the properties say they've seen enough...

Fonya Spielman/Merced Resident: "You see it quite a bit. There's a house down the street where everything's dead."

Many of the properties are not only eyesores. They're also safety hazards. The dry lawns can easily go up in flames. And those that have pools often become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that may carry West Nile Virus.

Susan Reid/Merced Resident: "Someone has to step in. It can't just continue because it's just gonna get worse."

That's why the City of Merced is considering a policy that would allow real estate agents who sell foreclosed homes to set up utility accounts in their own names. City finance officer brad grant says it would only apply to houses that are caught in limbo between foreclosure and being listed as bank-owned.

Brad Grant/City of Merced Finance Officer: "What this action will do is allow us to be pro-active, set the account up in the name of the realtor, and get the utilities back on and get the property ready for sale."

Realtor Scott Oliver says it would give agents the authority they need to make the improvements residents deserve.

Scott A. Oliver/Gonella: "It's unfair for the community, especially people who have paid a higher price for those homes and are willing to stay there and ride out the storm. They shouldn't have to look at the neighbors or half the neighborhood is a blight condition because it's a reflection of Merced."

The council is also considering whether to waive deposits when real estate agents open the utility accounts and if the city should use 10 thousand dollars from the general fund to cover those deposits.

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