City Of Tulsa Has More Blighted Houses Than It Has Funds For Demolition

Thursday, November 21st 2013, 10:00 pm
By: Emory Bryan

We've all seen those houses that appear empty, abandoned, sometimes boarded up. But once they're boarded up, a lot of times nothing happens for years.

The city has a long list of rundown houses due for demolition, but not the money for the work. The Tulsa City Council is trying to figure out how to get the money and clear out the backlog.

Some Tulsa neighborhoods are plagued with abandoned and rundown homes, but almost every neighborhood has at least a few.

There's a common theme in most of the cases, according to the city official in charge of neighborhood development, Dwain Midget: "The irresponsible people, property tied up in legal deals like probate and straight up abandonment."

The boarded up houses, with dates and case numbers, are ones that have drawn the attention of code enforcement. That process can go on for years, though, without anything visible happening to the property.

See a complete list of the current 20,648 nuisance complaints filed with the city

"That's where residents don't understand--they see a sign up since 2009 and nothing's happening for 5 years," said Tulsa City Councilor Jeannie Cue.

The city council wants the Working in Neighborhoods Department to speed up the process, which now takes a minimum of three years to go from complaint to demolition.

The city can quickly get a house boarded up, but demolition costs an average of $5,000 per house, so that option is reserved for the worst of the worst.

The City of Tulsa gets a lot complaints about vacant properties. Since July, they've taken 20,640 nuisance complaints on vacant buildings or land. Only the worst cases are threatened with demolition: the city has just 257 demolition cases right now.

But there's funding to demolish only 100 homes this year.

"So even if I wanted to tear down all 257 cases I have right now, I still don't have the money," Midget said. "So, 157 of those houses are going to have to wait. And I've got stuff coming in all the time."

One option mentioned Thursday night is having a foundation front the money for demolition to the city, then get the money back when the land is sold. But with 257 just at the top of the list, it's going to take a while to help clear out the eyesores around the city.