Monroe razes dilapidated homes to fight blight

The city of Monroe has torn down 70 dilapidated structures so far this year, and more are to face the same fate.

Once a structure is razed, Public Works operation manager John Simon says a property owner is responsible for upkeep of the site, including mowing. If that task falls on the city, Simon says the property owner will be billed on their tax and revenue bill for the service.

Public Works Director Tom Janway said that if property owners continue to neglect their property, the city’s legal department can put a lien on it. He said he’d like to see more nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity step in to help redevelop the sites where structures are demolished.

“If the grass gets too high and they don’t cut it, the city will come and mow it and bill them on their tax and revenue bill,” Simon said.

On average, the city mows 1,000 of these lots three times during mowing season, which runs May to October.

“While there are about 1,000 lots that we mow, we don’t bill that total amount because some of that property is adjudicated and comes back to the city or the (Ouachita Parish) Police Jury. We bill for about 60 percent,” Janway said.

It costs the city about $40,000 each year to mow these lots, he said.

If property owners continue to neglect their property, the city’s legal department can put a lien on it, Janway said.

“The number of people who take care of their lots is growing, and I’ve seen more lots up for sale where we’ve been mowing,” Janway said. “That’s great news because we want to get these properties back on the tax roll.”

Habitat for Humanity has assumed some of the properties to provide affordable housing to low-income residents. This also provides expense savings for the city by eliminating the lots from those the city must mow and maintain.