Update: Condemned homes coming down again in Pine Bluff

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Update:

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Condemned homes are coming down in Pine Bluff once again.

The city started swinging the wrecking ball on Thursday, taking down the first one on its list.

The project is headed up by the Urban Renewal Agency. It started last year but was forced to stop after some question if the aggressive program was legal.

There are hundreds of ruined and abandoned homes scattered across the city.

So far, the Urban Renewal Agency has torn down 15 homes.

Original story:

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Hundreds of condemned homes in Pine Bluff could soon be torn down by the city, unless the owner does it themselves.

It’s part of an aggressive cleanup plan the city started earlier this year, but was forced to stop after some city leaders questioned if the program was legal.

Last year, Pine Bluff’s Urban Renewal Agency started razing homes that were condemned and not fixed by the owner.

“We’re trying to change the image of our city,” said Executive Director, Maurice Taggart.

Taggart calls bulldozing homes a last resort. The city really wants owners to take care of their properties.

“We want people to be responsible homeowners and it doesn’t get in a dilapidated state,” he added.

If a homeowner doesn’t fix their property, then the city can if the home is in one of three established Opportunity Zones. The cost of the work ultimately falls on the homeowner. The city will bill them for demo, and if that isn’t paid it could force the property into foreclosure.

“They’re uninhabitable, no one can live there. I don’t even reference them as a house, it’s a structure to me. Remove that structure,” Taggart added.

The Urban Renewal Agency has torn down 14 home. Crews were forced to stop earlier this year when City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott questioned if the agency had the right to demolish the homes. Attorney General Lesile Rutledge weighed in, saying it’s not against the law.

Rutledge’s opinion paved the way for city council to pass a resolution so work could start again.

“We’re optimistic about the future,” Taggart said. “I think we can start cleaning this up, so we can start rebuilding.”

The goal is to resume demo in January.

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