BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Birmingham woman believes that an abandoned building in her neighborhood is becoming a hotspot for trash and crime.
After several failed attempts to get help from the city and police, she decided to call CBS 42’s Your Voice, Your Station team to find out what’s keeping city leaders from fixing it.
The Consult America Health and Rehab building sits on the corner of 71st Place North and 1st Ave North in the Wahouma area.
“It’s sad. It’s really sad and nobody should have to live like this,” Dr. Annette Smith said.
Dr. Annette Smith moved to the neighborhood a year ago from Florida.
“I have family members that want to come visit me but I don’t recommend it,” Smith said.
The abandoned assisted living home has been vacant for years and neighbors said it’s become a hot spot for attracting crime and litter.
“Wherever you go in Birmingham you see a lot of empty buildings, a lot of vacant buildings and to me that’s a cause for a lot of crime in the area,” Smith said.
She wanted to live closer to her kids and grandchildren but she never expected to live next to this.
“There’s a lot of homeless in the area, it’s a lot of prostitutes in the area and they walk all day and all night,” Smith said.
Smith said for the last year she’s made several calls to city leaders.
“I’ve contacted the mayor’s office; I’ve contacted the city countless times to no avail,” Smith said.
CBS 42’s Carly Laing did some research to find out what can be done. The property is privately owned, so the city isn’t in charge of its upkeep or demolition. She reached out to District 5 City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn and he says the city is working to address the problem.
“We are definitely aware of it. Code enforcement action has been taken on that property,” O’Quinn said.
According to O’Quinn, state laws make addressing private property situations like this one very challenging. He’s said the city has to track down and notify the property owner about the safety issues. The owner then has a chance to remediate the problem.
If the owner fails to take action, the case can go to court. O’Quinn said the property owner usually gets another chance to correct the issue before the court makes a final ruling. However, the process has to restart if the building changes owners.
Based on tax documents, the lot’s property taxes have been paid by at least four different entities over the last 10 years
“Alabama is a strong property rights state. The preference in the laws here is to give property owners a lot of protections,” O’Quinn said.
O’Quinn said he’s committed to making that area cleaner and safer.
“We don’t want blight to exist anywhere. We have assisted in helping make investments in the Wahouma neighborhood where that property is located. We’re trying to take action to remediate that problem but again, Alabama is a strong property rights state,” O’Quinn said.
After our interviews, a fire broke out at the building earlier this week and spread to a nearby home.
President of the Wahouma Neighborhood Association Robert Walker said this property is becoming a serious issue for the neighborhood.
“Not only is the building on fire but it burned down the house next to it and damaged two other houses. This is something the city needs to take seriously,” said Walker.
Walker said this isn’t the first time a fire broke out. He said fires at abandoned buildings in this area are happening far too often.
We were able to locate the last known owner of this property. Laing reached out to them but has not yet heard back.
Stay with CBS 42 as this story develops.