27 eyesore houses targeted for demolition in Lancaster

Twenty-seven derelict properties in the Lancaster city limits have been identified for inclusion in the Catawba Regional Council of Governments (COG) $5.6 million program to get rid of uninhabitable homes.
The city is working with COG to acquire, demolish and landscape blighted vacant residential properties through a Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP).
In April 2015, COG was awarded $5.6 million from the S.C. Housing Finance and Development Authority. The funds must be used by July 2017.
The state got the money through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund to reduce residential foreclosures through blight elimination efforts.
Cole McKinney, COG regional initiatives director, said most of the properties have been condemned and can’t be lived in.
The properties were identified and recommended for the program by the city’s building and zoning department. McKinney said the owners have been approached to see if they are willing to sell the properties. He lauded the city department’s help to identify the properties.
“They’ve been hugely helpful, which is why we have these numbers,” McKinney said.
The program allows COG to buy homes that are derelict or considered blighted properties, some of which are falling in, burned or abandoned.
In some cases, the homes may have tax liens, unpaid taxes or code violations that make them unlivable. Most of them are homes that need to be torn down, but the property owners can’t afford to pay for the demolition.
The demolition cap for each home is $30,000, which includes the purchase price, asbestos testing and abatement, and estimated closing costs.
Once the home is town down, the lots are graded, reseeded, made fit for new construction and maintained according to local ordinances. But the property belongs to COG and is placed on the market for sale.
After three years, if a lot is not suitable for new construction, the city of Lancaster will buy it from COG for $1 each.
“Once these things come down, these properties can be brought back to life,” said Lancaster Mayor John Howard.
But the key to the program, McKinney said, is the willingness of each property owner to sell.
“If they aren’t, we can’t put it in the program,” McKinney said. “Once they do that, we can continue the process.”
So far, 22 of the 27 properties have been approved by S.C. Housing Corp. for inclusion in the program, and McKinney said he expects the other five to be approved, as well.
At least 15 of the homes have been submitted for the closing process and will be torn down. McKinney said three have been closed on, one is scheduled for closing and 11 are undergoing title searches.
“We’ll be closing on those, too, as long as nothing significant shows up on the title searches,” McKinney said. “We don’t anticipate that being an issue on any of these. I have full confidence we’ll see all 27 through to fruition.”

By Greg Summers, staff reporter with The Lancaster News