Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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War on blight

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BATON ROUGE - Three abandoned houses were torched this week and city leaders want the blight problem fixed.

The Baton Rouge Fire Department is investigating arsons at vacant houses on Coolidge Street, Nebraska Street and Tennessee Street.

"Blighted homes can become a danger," BRFD's Curt Monte said. "Not only a danger for fires but also kids in the neighborhood."

Investigators are still trying to find out if the arsons are related or not.

"It becomes a breeding ground for drugs [and] prostitution. All the bad things that neighborhoods don't thrive from," Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker said.

She lives a block away from two blighted homes. Wicker and fellow councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis want the blighted property issue addressed.

"There is a waiting list. DPW doesn't have enough money to get to all of them and it's causing a backlog," Collins-Lewis said.

More than 6000 houses and properties are on the parish's adjudicated list.

"If it was your home and you lived there, you wouldn't want that next to you," Collins Lewis said.

"We have a lack of man power. So, we have the same crew that is our grass cutting crew tearing down houses," Wicker said.

Collins-Lewis and Wicker want tougher ordinances to hold property owners accountable.  But even if the process is made faster and more homes are demolished, it will still take a while to clear the backlog.

"Even if they did say 20 percent of the blighted properties in Baton Rouge, that would not even put a drop in the bucket," Collins-Lewis said.

The two councilwomen plan to work closely with the Redevelopment Authority to make stricter guidelines.


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