Blighted Knoxville home claimed by city, neighbors happy

12:29 AM, Feb 22, 2012   |    comments
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One West Knoxville neighborhood learned Tuesday night the city is a step closer to removing a blighted property from its premises.

514 Forest Hills Boulevard has sat vacant for almost 30 years. In that time, neighbors have watched the house slowly deteriorate. Holes have let water in through its roof. Raccoons and rats have also set up shop within its walls as well.

"It's sad that such a nice property, that's so old, has gone to ruin," said Susan Passarello, who lives next door. She said she's spent $300 calling out trappers to handle the home's vermin problem.

"Now, my cats chasing rats in the backyard," Passarello said.

More Information on: The Homemaker Program 

Tuesday night, the Knoxville City Council voted to officially acquire the house and make it a part of the city's "Homemaker Program."

"The homemaker program is a way that the City of Knoxville and the Community Development Department sells blighted property," said Community Development Director Becky Wade.

In November, the program consisted of more than 40 properties that both the city and KCDC, the Knoxville Community Development Corporation, owned. Both groups hope to sell the properties to new owners who will improve their status.

"We may acquire a property with a structure on it that is blighted or even just a vacant lot and offer it for sell to someone to redevelop it," Wade said.

The city bought 514 Forest Hills from owners Robert Downey, Jr. and Bernice Downey for $110,000, which was the amount the property was appraised for. The Downey's abandoned the property in 1987 and in 2010, it was condemned unfit for human habitation.

According to Wade, the city was given the right to buy the home after it contacted the Better Building Board and officially received a Certification of Blight. Knoxville than tracked down the Downeys to get them to sell the house. Ultimately, Knoxville made a $10,000 profit from the transaction when it got the Downeys to pay all of the city and county taxes they owed on that property, as well two others in the area.

Wade said she believes the city will have no problem selling 514 Forest Hills to a new owner because of its location. She told 10News, five people have already made inquiries about the house.

Gerri Sellers, a Forest Hills resident, said the news is exciting.

"We've sort of gotten used to it [the blight], but we're all thrilled about the idea that there's finally going to be something done about it," Sellers said.

Wade said if a person buys any home under the Homemaker Program, they have 180 days to renovate it. If they fail to live up to what was agreed to their contract with the city, Knoxville has the right to buy it back.

She said if you believe you have a home that is blighted in your area, you should first call the city's Codes Department. From there, the city decides what action to take next on the blighted property.

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