Jackson County

Money to deal with eyesore Katrina properties coming to Coast

Jackson County’s code enforcement officer, Jeff Barlow, right, is compiling a list of blighted properties, like this one in the Pinehurst subdivision of south Jackson County, so the county can utilize U.S. Treasury money to have them demolished.
Jackson County’s code enforcement officer, Jeff Barlow, right, is compiling a list of blighted properties, like this one in the Pinehurst subdivision of south Jackson County, so the county can utilize U.S. Treasury money to have them demolished. klnelson@sunherald.com

Jeff Barlow is scouring the county, mapping properties that are condemned or need to be — like a house in Pinehurst subdivision that is stripped to the studs with the roof falling in, never repaired after Hurricane Katrina.

Others are houses that have fallen into disrepair, where people have walked away from them. Combing the 730 square miles of Jackson County, Barlow knows where most of them are.

But the latest push for Barlow, Jackson County’s code enforcement office, comes with word of a new, promising program — U.S. Treasury Department money becoming available through the Mississippi Home Corp. for demolition of abandoned or rotting homes.

You find them everywhere. If you think you have one, call. We’ll assess it. See if it’s on the list.

Jeff Barlow, Jackson County code enforcement officer

So far, he has almost 40 on the list. But he’s welcoming new ones and asking that Jackson County residents report them by calling the county Planning Department at 228-769-3056.

The high-profile ones are in subdivisions, annoying neighbors and presenting a threat to kids who play inside them.

Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina, there are still lots of empty lots but development is coming and spreading down the beach.

“But you find them everywhere,” Barlow said. “If you think you have one, call. We’ll assess it. See if it’s on the list.”

Additional good news is the program does apply to removing slabs, but in Jackson County, slabs are a secondary priority.

“Most of what I have needs to be torn down and hauled off,” he said, “homes in neighborhoods that people have been complaining about for years. ... They aren’t safe in a neighborhood, kids break in and play in them.”

Anything torn down would be approved by the Board of Supervisors or city leaders if they’re in city limits. The process would include a public hearing and legal title search.

The program applies to counties and cities throughout the state. Mississippi is expecting to receive $20 million, and Jackson County supervisors were told on Monday that should translate to $500,000 for Jackson County. Earlier this year, Coast cities and counties got a seminar on what will qualify and how to get their projects accepted when the grant application period opens next year.

The funding comes from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program designed to stabilize the financial system during the financial and housing crisis of 2008. The Mississippi Home Corp. has submitted its plan to Treasury for approval.

“The goal of the project is to stabilize property values by removing and greening vacant and blighted properties in an effort to prevent future foreclosures for existing homeowners,” the program states.

So far, Barlow has identified about $150,000 worth of such projects. The structures have to be residential to qualify.

“This is the best thing we’ve had yet” for this lingering problem of slabs and failing homes, he said.

“The owner gets a free demolition,” he said, “and the county is reimbursed.”

Cleaning up the Coast

  • Mississippi Home Corp. is developing a program to provide funds to cities and counties to help demolish blighted and abandoned homes in their communities.
  • It’s aimed at preventing foreclosures.
  • These funds will be used to address problematic homes, stabilize property values, improve public safety and bolster civic pride.
  • MHC will schedule an application workshop after Mississippi’s plan is approved by U.S. Treasury next year.

Reach out

In Jackson County, call the Planning Department at 228-769-3056.

In other counties or cities, call the planning department to report blighted homes.

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