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Durham Combats Urban Decay

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DURHAM — Owning a home is a big investment -- one that most people want to protect. But, abandoned homes can give a neighborhood a bad reputation, and they can open the door for crime. Now, people in one part of Durham are ready to take back their neighborhoods.

It's a problem that a lot of cities have. Homeowners, for one reason or another, let their houses completely deteriorate until they become an eyesore.

Today, the Durham Coalition for Affordable Housing met with the mayor, city council members, and homeowners to talk about the problem. And, they all agree -- the houses have to go.

The number of boarded up and vacant houses in Durham is increasing, and it's adding to the Bull City's image problem, according to Kendall Abernathy, the city's housing director.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles. "No one wants to live next door to a vacant and boarded house. It has to do with property values, pride in your neighborhood, and your ability to feel safe in your own home."

That's why the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition has started the Campaign for Decent Housing. City council members, state legislators, and residents are working on ways to clean up neighborhoods. They hope to have most of the houses up to code in the next three to five years. That's a job that will require lots of work.

Northeast Durham makes up only three percent of the city's population, but it accounts for more than 20 percent of the crime. Community activist Jackie Wagstaff says that abandoned houses are part of the problem.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles. "They use these as getaways, use them as stash houses. They use them as drug flop houses. This is why we have to get it straightened up. We're not gonna stand for it anymore."

Instead, members are targeting property owners who have let their houses deteriorate. If they don't do the repair work, they could be taken to court. These residents are determined to save their neighborhood. Homeowner Debra Bittle could have given up and moved out, but she wants to fight.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles. "I had thought about moving out -- just selling the place and go. But, then I realized something needs to be done. I gotta get out here and fight, you know, for decent housing."


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