CHANDLER — Some structures damaged by fire that owners left standing that were dangerous and some abandoned property no longer habitable have been removed from this town.
Substandard houses are gradually disappearing through city tactics in cooperation with property owners that Chandler City Administrator Jim Moffeit said are working really well.
The effort began in 2008 after Chandler city officials contracted Sanitation Solutions of Paris for garbage collection service, inserting in the contract a requirement for the company to use its equipment to take down up to seven uninhabitable structures a year for the city.
“So far, we’ve done 26 since 2008,” Moffeit said.
City personnel work with property owners in an attempt to get them to volunteer substandard houses for demolition rather than go through the condemnation process.
When owners agree, Sanitation Solutions brings in its equipment and tears down a deteriorating structure, loads the material and hauls it off at no charge to the city or the property owner. The city usually pays for disposal of the material in a landfill although sometimes the owner pays that expense.
The first three years of the program, the city met the limit of seven structures a year for Sanitation Solutions to tear down. The pace has slowed the last couple of years to three or four a year because the inventory of substandard structures has declined, Taylor said.
Moffeit said, “There’s a few more we would like to take out, but we ran out of volunteer people.”
Still, administrators are trying to work with some families that have older homes that have passed down to heirs who are present owners that are substandard. If no one in the family can speak for the group, then the condemnation process may be necessary in some of those cases, Moffeit said.
Moffeit said, “We’d rather work with the (property owner) and make it a good deal for everybody.”
Besides getting the substandard structures demolished at no cost to property owners, this approach spares the city the expense and time involved in pursuing condemnation proceedings, he said.
Getting property condemned actually poses an expense for property owners too since the city can charge them for its costs in the condemnation proceeding, Moffeit said.
“It’s always better for them to volunteer, especially if (the property) has no value,” he said, adding that structures the city seeks to get demolished have no value.
More recently, the city initiated another approach with a Home Program Housing Rehabilitation Assistance grant from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of single-family homes.
“It’s a fairly long and involved application process through the state and a good program,” Taylor said.
It allows people living in a substandard structure inside the city limits who have clear title to the property to apply for a grant. If they keep the property in their family for five years, they don’t have to pay any of the loan back and can use the grant to demolish a substandard house and build a new house on the lot at no cost to them, Taylor said.
To be eligible for this program, applicants must reside in the city of Chandler and own the home they live in with a clear title to the property although mortgage liens are acceptable if permission is gained.
Other requirements are that the applicant has low to moderate income, lives in a substandard home, be current on property taxes or current on an approved payment plan with the appraisal district and be willing to relocate at their own cost during the demolition and reconstruction.
Substandard structures are a health and safety hazard to occupants and surrounding residents and also devalue the neighborhood and lead to more problems in a neighborhood, Taylor said.
If any property owner in Chandler needs help in removing a substandard structure from their property, Taylor recommended contacting Chandler City Hall at 903-849-6853.