City of Merced cracking down on abandoned homes

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0922217-kfsn-6pm-merced-housing-vid (KFSN)

Merced City Officials say vacant lots and homes create safety and health issues to their neighbors.

City officials say vacant lots and homes are a big issue in Merced. A new task force is setting their sights on knocking down those homes, saying they create safety and health issues to their neighbors.

"It's gotten me sick for two months, it needs to be cleaned up. It's terrible to get up every morning and look at this," said Mary Flores, neighbor.

Burned and abandoned homes are the target for Merced's new task force. Merced's City Manager Steve Carrigan, says the group is made up of city officials as well and fire and police leaders. It is aimed at finding the top 100 abandoned properties and clearing them out.

"Vagrants move in , they start fires, fires turn into a bigger fire, now all of a sudden you have safety hazard problems and these pop up all over the community," said Carrigan.

One by one, the task force is removing rundown homes and turning them into empty lots, each home costing about 10 to 30,00 to remove. Carrigan says the sight inside some of these properties are unforgettable.

"One gentleman had a bag in his kitchen. I asked what was that--he said that's his food, he's keeping it from the rats," said Carrigan.

The issue usually comes from a person who dies without leaving an heir to the home, or slumlords.

City officials set aside $50,000 for the task force. They are now asking the City Council for another $100,000 to continue their efforts. They say the choice for property owners is simple--either clean or pay a fine.

"Worst case is we'll fine them $1000 a day and we will," said Carrigan.

City Officials say it is going to take time and money as they continue working through the top properties on their list and ultimately, they would like to see new homes on these empty lots.
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