Wofford study highlights condemned structures

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 11:14 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:56 AM EDT
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - For more than a year now, a group of researchers from Wofford College have been looking at how abandoned and decaying homes can affect our quality of life.

The focus has been on the Una, Saxon and Arcadia neighborhoods in Spartanburg. Thursday night, they filled in the community on their findings.

Residents said they want to see infrastructure improvements, better protection from crime, landlords held accountable and of course doing something with the abandoned properties. Not many people understood the process of demolishing a home, so just hours before the meeting, we sat down with the county’s Environmental Enforcement Director, to get that answered.

The Wofford College research found some of the same communities which struggle with poverty are also struggling with blight. Environmental Enforcement Director Jamie Nelson says he sees it too.

“You have a broken window, if you don’t get it fixed right then, its gonna bring down the rest of the neighborhood,” said Nelson.

Many of the Una, Saxon and Arcadia residents expressed they wanted the blighted properties in their neighborhood gone. But as Nelson tells us, that process is not as easy as just pulling up a bulldozer.

“There’s a difference between an eyesore and an actual violation,” he said.

Nelson says there are 284 officially condemned structures in the county as of this month. Many of them are on a waitlist for demolition. But it could take a year to complete the process and be able to tear a property down.. They must first send a violation notice to owners.

“A lot of the times where it ends up ongoing is when the property owner is out of state, out of county, out of the United States” said Nelson.

He says about half of the property owners are not in the county, which makes them harder to trace. Some owners have died, other properties are going through foreclosure.

“There for a while, we didn’t do any demolitions,” said Nelson.

There are no funds set aside just for the demolition. It comes out of the county’s contracted services budget. Which is only a little over $19,000 for this year. It can cost thousands to tear down just one house.

That’s why Nelson says much of the responsibility must fall with the property owners.

“The county can’t become everyone’s handyman, there’s just no way county-wide we can do that” he said.

This isn’t the end of Wofford’s work. The plan to take the community suggestions and find obtainable solutions as well as do more research on how crime is linked to condemned properties.