Apartments Demolished After Long Legal Battle

Nearly two dozen dilapidated and crumbling apartment buildings are being demolished in Spring Branch after more than ten years of legal battles to tear them down. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The Hilton Town Complex located near Wirt and Hammerly has been vacant and in disrepair for more than a decade. It sits next to a pre-kindergarten school and a middle school, separated only by a chainlink fence. Councilmember Toni Lawrence says neighborhood residents have been trying to get the demolition for years and it's finally going to happen.

"It's where you put your priorities. The last councilmember, I guess it wasn't a priority, so it stayed. It wasn't a priority of the last mayor, just to be very straightforward with you. This mayor, I went to him and said this is something that I worked on as a volunteer, we want it to happen. And so he said 'I do too.' So just a process of getting the information, taking it to a judge, making them really realize this is a dangerous building."

The City of Houston will raze the remaining 23 buildings on the property. Houston Mayor Bill White says he was irritated at the thought that taxpayers might have to pick up the tab for the demolition.

"We put liens on the property and when it came to refinance the property the owner had to pay it. We've torn down some buildings, not at taxpayer expense. If the owner of the building doesn't pay us the bills for tearing this down, we're going to sue him."

The apartment demolition is one of many throughout the city. White says these empty buildings often house vagrants, prostitutes and drug users and are a blight to the community.

"And we're doing a lot. I mean, we're going to have about 800 dangerous buildings torn down this fiscal year, which is up sharply from what it was in prior years. And we're going up at a faster pace than that. That way we can put these properties back in use."

The city will turn a couple hundred long-term tax delinquent sites into new single-family residential homes over the course of the next several months. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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