By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
Blight can lead to a whole slew of community problems from increased crime, infrastructure costs and environmental hazards to decreased property values.
But ultimately Peoria police officers say blight is a public safety issue.
So city officials started a pilot program in April of 2016 to address abandoned, neglected and fire-damaged residential properties in Peoria.
Deputy City Manager Susan Daluddung said the program has been a success, leading to the demolition of some of the most unsafe homes in Peoria.
The city targeted 12 homes with the following results, working with the property owners whenever possible: 11 homes are designated to demolish and one property owner opened a permit to repair fire damage. None of the homes were occupied.
Of the 11 designated to demolish, nine have been demolished, one is pending final deadline, and one is pending appeal.
“We had strong compliance from property owners, and a strong response from neighbors,” Ms. Daluddung said. “Our real goal is to improve neighborhoods.”
Last year, the City Council allocated $30,000 for the program, at the estimated cost of $5,000 to $6,000 for each demolition. Ms. Daluddung said the program was cost effective. Property owners paid as much as $66,0000 to demolish their properties, with no demolition cost to the city.
As a result of that savings, Ms. Daluddung said the city was able to address even more homes. The city will allocate the same amount for the program’s second year, which will target a few commercial properties.
The primary cost of the program went to Wildan, a third party consulting firm that inspected the homes to validate the condition of the buildings.
The city provided reports to the owners, who were given the right to appeal, or repair or demolish.
City officials used the International Property Maintenance Code (2012) to address the unsafe structures and seek appropriate remedies.
The International Property Maintenance Code is a publication that includes codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures to provide minimum safeguards for people at home, at school and in the workplace.
It also includes a complete set of comprehensive, coordinated building safety and fire prevention codes without regional limitations.
Fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted the publication at the state or jurisdictional level, according to IPMC’s website.
Jay Davies, Peoria Police Department deputy director, said IPMC provided the necessary mechanism in determining the safety of the structures.
Mr. Davies said the city’s efforts to address blight and unsafe structures utilizing the IPMC yielded great results.
The project spanned a number of departments throughout the city, including the fire prevention inspector as well as members of the city manager’s office and attorney’s office, and others.
Mr. Davies’ role on the cross functional team included coordinating and sending owners notices and communication, and any necessary enforcement.
“We have enjoyed tremendous cooperation and voluntary compliance throughout the process and have far exceeded this year’s goal of addressing six unsafe structures,” he said. “We are on pace to have owners correct or remove about a dozen unsafe structures, enhancing safety and removing blight in several communities across the city.”