If you were to ask Louise Taylor three years ago, the property right next to her home on Roderick Street in Mobile looked more like the wilderness than a former residence.
“Before we moved in, this yard was so grown up, it looked like a jungle,” she said. “I didn’t think there was any hope for it.”
Taylor’s attitude began to change about six months ago when the city took control of the property due to tax delinquency. Soon, city contractors had cut the grass and secured the single family residence.
“It is like, ‘oh my God,’” she said of the transformation.
On Monday, May 13, Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced the formerly blighted home had been secured, along with almost half the structures identified in a blight survey by the Bloomberg Innovation Team since 2017.
“We continue to fight blight by deploying the right tools to the right structures for faster resolution,” Stimpson said. “Neighborhood revitalization is a key part of our plan to improve the quality of life for our citizens and make Mobile the safest, most business- and family-friendly city in America.”
Through its efforts to fight blight, the city has reduced the number of blighted structures by more than 700. When Stimpson’s Bloomberg Innovation Team first indexed blighted residential structures in 2016, 1,625 were surveyed. That number has been decreased to 891, according to information released by Stimpson’s office. However, as more blighted structures roll off the list, more are added, Senior Director of Neighborhood Development Jamey Roberts said.
In all, some 887 structures have been or are scheduled to be demolished, and even more have stabilized based on a citywide scoring system, Roberts said.
Stimpson has instructed Roberts and Deputy Director of Municipal Enforcement David Daughenbaugh to work to stabilize as many as 500 more structures during the next fiscal year. The mayor told a gaggle of reporters he would focus on that goal during the 2020 budgeting process, which has already begun.
The mayor’s blight task force, or I-Team, was the subject of debate during 2019 budget discussions between Stimpson and members of the Mobile City Council. The council amended the budget to exclude funding for the Bloomberg team, in large part, because a grant funding it had dried up after three years. The budget, with that and other amendments, passed the council by a veto-proof 6-1 vote.
Stimpson’s office has virtually ignored the amendment and has funded I-Team positions through other city departments. It’s clear with the Monday announcement, Stimpson is looking to debate the topic again.
In remarks made during a press conference, Stimpson thanked both the council and the local legislative delegation for pushing through laws and ordinances making it easier to fight blight. What used to take up to nine years, now takes a significantly shorter amount of time, he told reporters.
One ordinance, passed by the council in August, forces city contractors to use a polycarbonate covering to close windows, rather than the more traditional plywood. The polycarbonate costs about $500 more per project, but doesn’t need to be replaced after two years and is harder to damage, Roberts said.
The home at 1400 Roderick Street is one of 10 structures the city has used the new polycarbonate coverings on, Roberts said. The city hopes that with the home secured it can sell it to a developer who will flip it and put it back on the market.
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