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Former Classy Neighborhood Stands Abandoned in Durham

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DURHAM — Durham's new city manager said eliminating abandoned, dilapidated houses was one of his top priorities, but somewhere in the mix that priority may have been lost in a rundown neighborhood.

People who live on Vail Street in northeast Durham are living with blight all around them. Abandoned houses and piles of debris litter the street. The city says it is trying to fix such problems one block at a time, but some blocks look worse than others.

What were once stately homes in Durham's industrial district have become dumping grounds. In just two blocks near Clay and Vail streets, there are eight abandoned and deteriorating homes.

Durham's Housing Code Administrator, Jimmy Streeter, and Director of Housing, Kendall Abernathy, agreed to visit the run-down neighborhood with WRAL-TV5'sMark Roberts.

"Well, this block definitely needs some work," said Abernathy. "A number of these properties are already condemned and scheduled for demolition. We'll be getting those down, but it's a constant matter of keeping up with the vacant lots, keeping up with the trash, and trying to change the community's attitude towards dumping and taking care of their properties."

Some are trying to keep up their property and make the best of what they have. Some areas have changed. The city's Eastway redevelopment project near Few Gardens. New and rebuilt homes are replaced razed condemned properties. But some areas still have a long way to go.

"We can get it cleaned up," said Streeter. "I don't know how long it'll stay that way. This trash here has just come in over the last week or two weeks. We're continuously cleaning up areas and we have to go back to some of the same ones over and over."

Aside from the people who dump things, another problem is some landlords. If a landlord is not cooperative, it can take the city six months or longer to condemn and demolish a structure.