Local News

Durham Houses Not Up to Code Stir Debate

Posted May 1, 2007 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated May 1, 2007 10:10 p.m. EDT

— Last year, 75 structures in Durham were torn down because they weren't up to code. Some see those places as having hidden potential, while others call them eyesores.

Durham's downtown neighborhoods are filled with charming old houses, but some appear to be past their prime.

“Why do we as a community have to suffer because of neglect?” said community activist Rev. Melvin Whitley.

Whitley said boarded-up and abandoned houses open the door for crime. He also said the poor conditions of the residences bring down the rest of the neighborhood.

“This is a dream that's turned into a nightmare,” he said.

Whitley said a house should be torn down if it’s lost 50 percent of its value. Right now, if a building or home isn't up to code, the owner has 60 days to fix it up or the city may move in.

However, other people said some buildings can and should be saved. Their concern moved the city to temporarily stop demolishing old buildings.

“Rehab contributes more to the tax base than a teardown,” said Ellen Dagenhart, president of Preservation Durham.

Dagenhart said she thinks the city should encourage more people to rehab old places. She said an alternative approach would be for the city to make the improvements to a building and then force the owner to pay them back.

“In the event the property owner didn't comply, the city would be able to foreclose on the property and recoup its investment,” she said.

City leaders have not decided when they will end the demolition moratorium.