CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The city of Charleston has between 150 and 200 vacant homes, about 1,000 property liens and is demolishing buildings at least a few times a week, according to Building Commissioner Tony Harmon.
"Seven or eight years ago, I would have told you, 'Hey, I think we're on top of this thing. We're closing up,'" Harmon said. "With the foreclosures and everything, we're back to square one."
Harmon told Charleston Urban Renewal Authority commissioners and Mayor Danny Jones, who attended the commission's monthly meeting Wednesday morning, that about 70 percent of vacant buildings in the city are homes. Property owners "walk away" from homes Harmon called "obsolete" because they have little or no resale value.
Demolished properties tend to be vacant residential ones that are dilapidated. Some are associated with crime and others are brought to the commission's attention after catching fire, Harmon said.
Two buildings on Stockton Street with "a real drug problem" were taken down last week, he said. Structures on West Washington Street and Leon Sullivan Way are slated to be demolished in the next month, Harmon said.
The Building Commission works on 10 or 12 properties continuously, but has about 25 backlogged, Harmon said.
Cost determines the pace at which the commission can handle properties throughout the city. There is a general fund, but the commission frequently runs out of money.
"I've already ran out this year of general funds and went back for more," Harmon said. "I usually have to do that about two or three times a year."
The commission wants to create a kind of database of vacant properties in Charleston so it can see exactly what's out there, Harmon said. CURA board members expressed an interest the idea.
CURA commissioners also received updates on Shrewsbury Village from Bill Turner of Pison Development. The senior housing project will have 32 ADA-compliant units and 48 parking spaces -- 1.5 per unit. The building's first floor will serve as a lobby and mail area for residents and have about 6,000 square feet for commercial space.