Fargo fights to transform dangerous homes

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The City of Fargo is taking on dangerous homes with a new sense of urgency.

"The people who own and invest in their homes and want to make that their life, their home - this is important for them. That they know they're not at risk by what's happening next to them or their own property values will take a dive," says Fargo Commissioner John Strand.

He says blight is everybody's problem - because even if blight isn't in your neighborhood yet - it could be on the way.

"What happens in one neighborhood will soon happen in another neighborhood," Strand adds.

Fixing these eyesores isn't just about how things look on the outside. City officials say it's also about safety.

"Vagrants were breaking into the building. And we don't know what they were doing. So we had to take action, take staff to go board up the home. Actually take control of the home. And that happened several times," says Bruce Taralson, the Inspections Administrator for the City of Fargo.

"And the building isn't safe. It might be full of mold, it might be full of who knows what - contaminated in whatever ways. Might be completely uninhabitable," says Strand.

Now, the city is going after homes it considers dangerous.

"Our inspections department and our code enforcement folks are really stepping up their game to the point there really isn't much leeway anymore. Either you fix up your property when you've been given notice or the consequences will unfold," Strand says.

The new focus on dilapidated homes comes after a push from the community.

"A lot of complaints from neighborhoods in regard to dilapidated properties. And we're being a little more strict about how quick we react to those complaints," Taralson says.

If the home isn't brought up to city standards - it faces demolition. And since the cost of tearing down homes is paid for by tax-payers, the city says it would rather work with owners to fix their properties.

"The ultimate goal is to get that property repaired, fixed up, and or a new building to make the neighborhoods better," says Taralson.

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