Vacant housing takes center stage in West Side meeting

Charleston West Side Meeting

A lot of topics -- drugs, prostitution, the homeless population and jobs -- were on the table at a Charleston West Side community meeting. Vacant and dilapidated housing, however, was the most heated topic.

Chuck Frostic, who has lived on Dayton Drive for years, said dilapidated houses attract vagrants and, with them, several other problems.

“We can’t allow these things to go on year after year after year,” Frostic said. “There are so many vacant properties and that is where people are congregating, hanging out, and doing drugs.”

City leaders on the West Side said they also know the issue and say they are actively trying to get the buildings demolished.

“I think I have more abandoned buildings in my ward, up on the hill, than any other ward in the city,” said Chuck Overstreet, Charleston city councilman. “You have squatters, drug activity, rodents, tall grass and needles.”

Charleston Police Chief Steve Cooper said it’s going to take a lot of help from the public to take care of the empty houses.

Cooper said to help drive off vagrants, report the houses that aren’t boarded up. The housing department was on pace to spend $100,000 on plywood this year alone boarding up vacant properties.

Locals also could report potentially vacant properties, and a new law allows police to get a search warrant, assess the home and potentially seize the property.

“We are trying to address it as quickly and as aggressively as possible,” Cooper said.

Cooper also said any property owner can call the city to demolish a home on their land, and they will do it. The owner will be charged for demolition costs, however.

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