'Tear it down:' Nearly 80 homes abandoned in small North Carolina town but leaders say they can only afford to remove 9

MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Neighbors in Mount Olive say they are tired of seeing dilapidated homes in their community and they want the town to do something about it.

"Tear it down," said Tracey Higgs, who has seen an abandoned home outside her front door each day for more than a decade.

Higgs worries wild animals, rodents and random squatters have moved into what was once a beautiful home.

"Generations don't take care of it. It's like once the owner passes away, that's it," said Higgs.

Michael Olliver is an advocate for Tracey's community. He said his group 1619 Project has been cleaning and cutting the grass at many of the vacant properties in the predominately Black neighborhood.

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"There's no excuse for people to live in these conditions. It's unacceptable," said Olliver. "Our children deserve better. It's unsafe. It's unsanitary."

Town leaders admit the northern part of Mount Olive, home to more white residents, near Main Street looks better with fewer vacant homes.

Tracey said the town keeps the grass next door cut but now she wants them take action.

"They are old and dilapidated but most of the times they are not so bad until they are falling apart," said interim town manager Jammie Royall.

Royall said there is a socioeconomic issue connected to why more homes in Tracey's neighborhood are abandoned.

Right now, he said there are nearly 80 properties that are considered public nuisances, where the property owners violated the town's rules and regulations on upkeep.

Violators could face hundreds of dollars in fines and property liens.

But for the town, demolishing these homes is financially challenging.

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Town leaders typically budget $13,000 a year to demolish five abandoned homes. The expense is then given back to the property owner.

Royall said house flippers have made offers recently.

"We have a couple from Maine that has bought quite a few of them and refurbished them and got them rented," said Royall.

This year, Royall says they have budgeted $26,000 for demolition, and requested the town board to approve nine homes for removal.

The home next to Higgs is not one of them. At least not yet.

"It's a problem and it's sad," said Higgs.

If anyone needs to report a Mount Olive home as a public nuisance, they can contact 919-658-9538 x 111.
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