Blight to Bright: The mayor's fix to blight and affordable housing

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Eliminating blight and offering affordable housing in its place is the number one goal for Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach in 2017.

With a little help from state lawmakers, the mayor is convinced it's still possible.

The city has identified 100 of the worst properties in Savannah. Several of them line the streets of West Savannah, contributing to violent crime and drug activity.

Many residents and city leaders feel like a clean environment makes a safe environment. Mayor DeLoach wants state lawmakers to change the imminent domain laws, making it easier for the city to quickly take over blighted properties and turn them into livable homes.

One drive through West Savannah reveals boarded up home after boarded up home. Cummings Street may be the worst.

"You won't go through West Savannah on none of the streets and find boarded up homes. I'm not saying one, I'm saying several boarded up houses," said West Savannah resident Ronald Williams.

These homes are draining the value of surrounding properties and adding to a crime problem at the same time.

"Can you imagine waking up every morning and looking out your door and that's all you see each and every morning. Coming home, that's all you see," said Williams.

At least one city leader wants to change this. The mayor's goal? Take them, tear them down, and turn them into affordable houses for thousands of residents looking for a place to live.

"We got 6,000 people on the list that want affordable housing, and we don't have anything to offer them. That doesn't make sense does it?" said Mayor DeLoach.

At least eight homes on Cummings Street are boarded up. In some cases, they swallow up homes where people live.

"And they've been in that situation for a couple decades. Not a couple years, a couple decades," said DeLoach.

The idea isn't new. The implementation of it is where the city hopes to break new ground. Some people don't like the idea of the city taking over property. Williams knows why they're against it.

"They don't live in these conditions. They don't see what we see every day when we walk out our houses. They don't see this," said Williams.

They don't see the trash. They don't see the drug activity. They don't see the negative effects it has on a community like West Savannah.

"It's the American dream to be able to have a decent job and be able to buy a house and raise your kids to do better than you did," said DeLoach.

That—the mayor says—is what he hopes to change by taking these run down properties and turning them into something to be proud of.

The mayor said the city will be ready to start with this initiative as soon as lawmakers make it legal for cities in Georgia to take these blighted properties.

One woman, who didn't want to go on camera, said she's actually moving off Cummings Street because it's gotten so bad.

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