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New law gives municipalities power to tear down abandoned homes and buildings

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A law now gives local areas all over the state extra power to turn run down and abandoned buildings into productive properties.

While Charleston officials said they have made progress over several years, revamping dilapidated structures and tearing down buildings that can't be salvaged there is still work to do and this law may be able to speed up the process.

"It's just been the last five or six years, everything's just going downhill,” Katy Layne said.

Abandoned homes, over grown yards and trash are just a few of Katy Layne's everyday frustrations.

"It's just frustrating when you look around and see the whole neighborhood just deteriorating before your eyes,” Layne said.

Layne has lived on Charleston’s west side her entire life and doesn’t plan on leaving, but she does hope to move into a new home and worries some of the houses on her street will prevent her from being able to sell.

"Appraisals for houses aren't as high as they should be no matter how nice your house is or how well you've taken care of it. If you look around your neighborhood and see five or six homes on your block that's vacant, that doesn't look good to someone who wants to buy in the area,” Layne said.

She's hoping the new law could change that. Now with a warrant, enforcement agencies can inspect properties and buildings that are dilapidated and determine if the building can be salvaged or needs to be demolished, without permission from the property owner.

"It's great to have a law that has the teeth in place to allow the code enforcing agencies, in this case the municipalities to take care of this problem that's been going on for a really long time,” Executive Director of Charleston Main Streets, Ric Cavender said.

Cavender said he's seen the progress the city has made, and he is confident this law will speed up the work already being done.

"The city has been really diligent about getting as many of these dilapidated structures down as possible, but now with this law, it is going to be a little easier to do that and maybe speed things up,” Cavender said.

Cavender says if a building is posing a serious risk to the area around it municipalities can choose to demolish it.

"This will obviously provide another means to make sure that houses aren't catching on fire and so many other things that we've seen happen so many times due to this issue,” Cavender said.

"There's a lot of great people living here a lot of people who want it to improve, but their hands are tied, and sometimes you get frustrated, and you want to give up, but us who live here, we're not going to give up, we're going to keep pushing and getting these neighborhoods cleaned up,” Layne said.

When homes are torn down or repaired, Layne says she hopes to see more young people moving to the west side to keep the area alive.

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