Abandoned buildings are a major problem for any neighborhood. From being homes to criminals and drug users to posing a hazard to other houses on the street, there are multiple reasons for wanting to get rid of them. But one thing you’ll notice is that they’re usually still standing despite their dangers. So, why aren’t abandoned buildings demolished?
There are reasons for abandoned buildings. It could be due to maintenance costs, the owner’s death, safety, or pollution. But authorities fail to demolish these buildings because of the cost of demolition, the complex legal process for property seizure, health concerns, and unjustifiable spending.
Even in cases where the buildings are demolished, their effects on the safety and general wellbeing of the neighborhood are hard to determine. This article discusses why people abandon their buildings and why those buildings aren’t demolished.
Why Do People Abandon Buildings?
There are several reasons for abandoning a building. Here are some of those reasons:
1. The cost of maintenance
A major reason people abandon buildings is the inability to justify the cost of staying there or maintaining them. When the cost of maintaining it already outweighs the benefit of staying in it, the people living there may not see the need for it again. The result is abandonment which makes the property fall into disrepair.
2. Death of owner
It could also result from the death of the owner of the house. Where the single owner of the house dies and leaves no heirs or the heirs aren’t willing to take up the space, the house gets abandoned. Of course, the heirs could have their reasons for not wanting to take over the property, which revolves around the economic value of the property, or the dead owner not stating who should take over the property. It could also be due to personal reasons in some cases. For example, some heirs are unwilling to sell the house after their parents pass away even though they don’t use it. The result is the houses deteriorate.
Natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, and hurricanes could also force people to abandon a property. Natural disasters usually force people and businesses to leave certain areas. At times, when people leave for safety reasons, they never return. Another safety factor is violent crimes. If these crimes are too high, many people will usually abandon the buildings, and no other person will buy them.
4. Environmental Issue or Pollution
People could also abandon property when because of environmental issues. Air pollution, water contamination, or even mold could force people to abandon their houses. Serious mold infestation is a significant issue that could contaminate the house. In cases where it’s impossible to deal with the mold problem, the homeowner may be forced to vacate their property. A good example of this is the story of Melinda Ballard, who abandoned her 22-room mansion because of mold infestation.
Why are Abandoned Buildings Still Standing
The dangers of abandoned buildings are something everyone knows, including the government. But there are still several of these buildings. This is due to the following reasons:
1. Cost of Demolition
It’s not only the cost of repairing or maintaining a building that is high. Even the cost of demolishing it and disposing of the debris so that the land can serve another purpose could also be high. This means that no one would spend that money unless they see a good financial reason. It can cost up to $10,000 to demolish a single-family home, and larger buildings are even more expensive.
2. Complex Legal Process
The legal process involved in seizing a dilapidated building complicates the process of demolishing it. Most times, it’s hard to determine the actual owners of the property. If it has been abandoned for several years, no one would want to claim ownership as such would come with fines on the unpaid taxes and fees. The city also wants the unpaid taxes and fees on the property, so they won’t want to demolish it as this will cost money rather than bring money. The fact that the city doesn’t have any right or responsibility regarding the property also means it can’t just decide to demolish it unless it’s posing a serious risk to many people. If the city doesn’t own a property, its right to demolish it is limited.
3. Health Concerns
Most old buildings usually come with one health concern or the other. It could be an asbestos ceiling or the lead pipe on the property. Demolishing homes with all these issues can be more costly because the process will require extra care. For most city councils, this isn’t just worth it.
4. Unjustifiable Spending
Also, most cities with neglected and abandoned properties aren’t cities with booming economies. In most cases, the city’s economy isn’t as strong as it used to be, leading to many people leaving. Thus, the city might barely have enough money. This makes it difficult to justify taxpayers spending their money on demolishing a property without any purpose for the land afterward.
Effect of House Demolition
Also, it doesn’t appear like demolition is achieving its goal of improving neighborhood safety. A 2020 study by the University of Kansas found that a program to demolish over 500 abandoned residential properties in the Kansas city didn’t significantly reduce property and violent crimes in nearby areas. Assistant professor of public affairs & administration at the university, Hye-sung Han, who conducted the study, examined 559 abandoned properties in the city.
She discovered that the demolition didn’t reduce nearby crime, and the localized housing and socioeconomic characteristics were more likely to affect any change in the rate of crimes. The properties in question were demolished between 2012 and 2016. When comparing crime in the area where demolition occurred to crime in the area where there was no demolition, there wasn’t any significant difference. According to her, this might be because the demolition left a vacant lot behind, which isn’t necessarily good for the neighborhood either.
Abandoning a building could be due to many reasons, and in some cases, the abandoned building is initially in good shape. But all buildings generally require maintenance, and if left unmaintained for too long, it starts to deteriorate to the point where it’s no longer economically viable to fix them. Not only that, but the cost of demolition in most cases will also discourage most cities from also demolishing the property, especially as they don’t gain anything from the process.