City Of Tulsa Working To Remove Neglected, Abandoned Homes

Tuesday, May 12th 2015, 9:35 am
By: News On 6

The city of Tulsa is working to revitalize north Tulsa neighborhoods filled with neglected and vacant homes but is also working to change state law on how to fund their efforts.   

Gladys Dean remembers when these homes were filled with her friends. 

"They'd say hello to you, they were nice. I lived out here by myself with the windows open, breeze blowing through," said Gladys Dean. 

Now, more than 20 years later the homes are empty shells of what life was once like. 

Dean lives off East 52nd Place North. All around her homes are vacant homes marked with spray paint. There are more of these homes in this part of Tulsa than any other part of town.

"You know when you go out south, there's a store on every corner, but here you've got to drive a ways,” said Shovella Perkins. 

Perkins says a lot of her neighbors moved to be closer to new development and explains that when stores and people left, crime started moving in. Just last week, a fire was started inside a vacant home where the utilities were turned off.

“It's bad around here. Even the one across the street from me, they in and out.  School kids in there smoking,“ said Sherryl Lisealis.

"They be breaking in and doing drugs and stuff like that," said Cecilia East. 

She says she doesn't like living here, but can't afford to leave. So instead, she hopes for change.

"We're working on that right now," says Tulsa city councilor Jack Henderson.

The City of Tulsa used to keep a registry that forced property owners to develop a plan to either rehabilitate or demolish their neglected vacant property. Last year, a bill- known as the Property Rights Act- passed in the Oklahoma legislature that outlawed registries. Proponents were trying to protect property owners from cities that place expensive or unreasonable demands on them.

"It had a devastating impact on our ability to aggressively go after these property owners," said Dwayne Midget, City of Tulsa- Director of Community & Economic Development. 

I looked at what sort of affect the registry had. Since it was created in 2011, around 1,200 properties had been registered. By the time the registry was outlawed, about third of the properties had been removed from the list because the owner had either rehabilitated or demolished it. 

City of Tulsa representatives say the registry was the most effective way to handle this problem. Now, the city is looking to change legislation.

"We want to find a way and that's what we're working on in the legislature, to give municipalities the authority to reclaim these properties that have been neglected, abandoned, vacant for years and put them in into the hands of responsible property owners," said Dwayne Midget.

While working for change, the city of Tulsa continues to tap into the $500,000 in general funding that it received to clean up nuisance and vacant properties. Since the funding was received three years ago, about 650 former homes have been demolished and about 150 more are in line to be torn down.

Each demolition is now the result of a complaint process and costs about $5,000. It's money well spent according to Gladys Dean. One of the few remaining longtime residents who can still remember what her neighborhood should look like.

If you see a neglected or vacant home in your neighborhood- and would like to do something about it- you can file a complaint with the city.  You can do this by calling the Mayor's Action Hotline at 918-596-2100.