Owners of vacant homes in Selma should be held responsible

Published 3:27pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

There goes another one up in smoke.

Friday evening, an abandoned home on Church Street — reportedly one without electricity running to it — caught fire and was destroyed. This one just happened to be one of historic significance, but that in no way makes what happened any more or less troubling.

Selma has a persistent problem with abandoned homes in some sections of Selma and a worse problem of owners of these problems who are simply negligent in their upkeep or concern of these properties.

It would be easy to tie such comments to the problem of fundamentally flawed owners of some downtown buildings, such as Teppers and the former National Voting Rights Museum, each of which are iconic buildings in Selma and are falling further and further into a state of disrepair. But, we will save that discussion for a later time.

Abandoned homes in Selma not only create a unique opportunity for spontaneous fires, but they create havens for criminal elements who frequent these structures.

Months ago, two abandoned homes in Ward 6 went up in flames in less than a week. Now, two homes that had been left vacant in Selma’s Old Town have been severely damaged or destroyed by fire.

Are these accidents or coincidence? Maybe, but questions have to start being raised about the safety and security of our neighborhoods that are home to abandoned homes.

This is not an invitation to the city to begin a bulldozing effort through the city, crushing abandoned homes. But, it is a call to the city to step up efforts to find these owners, hold them accountable for the conditions of their homes and — through increased efforts by the city’s code enforcement office — find ways to “convince” owners to provide better upkeep of these structures.

No longer can we allow such structures to go untouched, left to rot and create problems for its neighbors.

Owners of these properties should be identified, held accountable and held responsible for the condition of the properties they own. We can no longer let negligent property owners remain out of sight, out of mind.

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