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Port Richey: Knocking down houses is easy part

Lisa Vayre didn't know what was moving on top of the vacant house next to hers on Chapel Avenue.

"I thought a couple of them were my cats," Vayre said. "I've never seen rats like that in my life."

The condemned house, sitting at the corner of Regis and Chapel avenues, has been a neighborhood eyesore for years. Port Richey police have raided it while looking for drugs, homeless people have camped there, and the city has put liens on the house over the years for every time they mowed the lawn or put plywood up to keep rats out. The running total: more than $17,000.

Vayre has been raising Cain with city leaders about the house. On Tuesday night, City Council members talked about using city redevelopment money to knock down that house and five other condemned houses. But City Manager Vince Lupo warned that the council needed to be careful.

Lupo said that the city, if it starts demolishing the six condemned houses in Port Richey, could wind up in the real estate business. With thousands of dollars in liens on a house, the city could end up the owner, which takes the properties off the tax rolls and forces the city to maintain the property.

With only $15,000 in money budgeted for demolition, the council won't be able to do much yet, Lupo said.

"There is a balance between what the city can do financially and what it cannot do legally," Lupo said.

Soon, Lupo said, the city will have community redevelopment money and can also apply for community development block grants. The city could then demolish the houses, or provide potential buyers with grants or low-interest loans to fix the houses themselves.

Council members said they wanted to do something about the condemned houses. If the city ends up owning the property, it can be sold, the council said.

Council member Bill Bennett asked about selling the land to Habitat for Humanity to build housing for low-income families.

"This is an area that sorely needs attention," Mayor Eloise Taylor said.

"It's unacceptable to leave buildings like that unattended."

_ Matthew Waite covers Port Richey city government. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waitesptimes.com.

Workers from Port Richey's public works department patch a hole in the roof of an abandoned property on Chapel Avenue. The city has already spent $17,000 on repairs and maintenance at the abandoned house, which neighbors say is an eyesore.

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