Birmingham prepares to demolish hundreds of homes

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The city of Birmingham has condemned 381 structures, but it will take time to demolish them, leaders say.

Mayor Randall Woodfin discussed the details of his ongoing project to clean up the city during Tuesday’s city council meeting. The structures that already are condemned are ready for demolition. He says 344 more structures are going through the condemnation process.

Woodfin has focused on demolishing dilapidated homes since his campaign last year, and he says 31 homes already are in the demolition process. But some people have raised questions about the progress of this project following a recent outbreak of fires at vacant homes, especially in the Ensley community. Birmingham Fire and Rescue says they’ve fought about a dozen fires since last Wednesday, about half of those on the west side of the city. Investigators attribute five of the fires to arson.

“That is an unfortunate problem and issue about those fires in Ensley,” city councilor John Hilliard said. “But our fire department, our police department are looking into those issues right now. We have not found out a lot of detail on it. A lot of it, I recognize, were abandoned homes. We must pay closer attention to what’s going on in our communities.”

Some residents are concerned that more vacant homes will be burned, and that the fires could spread and damage other homes nearby. They wonder why the city can’t just bulldoze vacant homes to prevent the problem.

The city is in the process of identifying and destroying dilapidated structures, but leaders say the entire process takes about 10 weeks, and they have specific legal requirements to follow.

“Owners have to be informed. That could take time, then a legal process we have to go through,” Hilliard said. “Then we have to do condemnation on a property. If there’s any liens, you have to contact people. So it can take quite a while.”

Once demolition begins, it takes two-and-a-half days to clear the property. Each demolition costs about $6,000. The city has $750,000 available for the project, which will help them demolish 125 homes.

CBS 42 asked city officials how many homes have been destroyed since Woodfin took office in late November. They did not have that number, but they said that eight have been destroyed in the last week. And in addition to the 31 houses the city is currently demolishing, they have identified 33 more that they are ready to begin demolishing.

CONDEMNATIONS, BY DISTRICT

District 1 – 3

District 2 – 14

District 3 – 0

District 4 – 79

District 5 – 51

District 6 – 50

District 7 – 54

District 8 – 50

District 9 – 80

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