Dallas accelerates program to rid city of abandoned housing

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on February 18, 2012 at 10:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 4:28 AM

DALLAS — Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' plan for growth in southern Dallas calls for attracting new businesses and housing.

But as buildings go up, the city wants to do a lot of tearing down, too.

Left alone and abandoned, hazardous vacant houses can quietly fence-off neighborhoods from reaching their potential.

City Council member Dwaine Caraway, who represents a southern Dallas district, says it's time for more real and political bulldozing.

"The first thing you do is bring these structures to the ground," he said as he gazed at a neighborhood filled with dilapidated buildings.

Under the mayor's southern Dallas growth plan, the city expects more noise and demolition of abandoned houses like these. If owners fail to fix up the homes, the city plans to get court orders to knock them down.

As many as 250 could be demolished this year.

The mayor asked Caraway to lead the way, and the Council member listed the reasons why unsightly buildings can't be allowed to linger: "It will stifle development, it will keep developers from wanting to come, it is unsafe," he said.

The city wants to build in southern Dallas on progress already made elsewhere in the city in taking over properties that non-profits like Habitat for Humanity can build on.

Caraway started protesting nuisance properties in 2007, even before he was elected to the Council. Since then, cheap motels like those that sat across from Veterans Medical Center have been torn down for a new office building.

Lack of money and slow city bureaucracy have sometimes been obstacles along the way, but Caraway says that is no longer the case.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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