Posted on September 27, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Friday, Sep 28 at 7:31 AM
AUSTIN -- They’re unsafe, rotting away and impacting property values of nearby homes.
"We've seen foxes. We've seen coyotes. We've seen all kind of stuff,” says Chuck Granberry, describing what he’s witnessed come out of five abandoned homes in his Western Travis County neighborhood.
He and his neighbors have literally seen the unfinished properties waste away for the past five years across from some homes worth nearly a half a million dollars.
"And if I look over my fence, I do, I feel like I’m in the hood," Granberry said.
Digging through Austin/Travis County Health Department records, the Cardinal Hills homes were cited numerous times for health hazards, including "substandard structures, decayable waste and 'rubbish.'
Neighbors' home values pay the price. Granberry built and purchased his home for about $540,000 in 2007. Today it’s valued $60,000 less.
"You're sort of excited your property taxes are less, but what you don't realize is that your investment has just gone down the tube as well," said Granberry.
Finding help to fix the problem has been just as frustrating for him and his neighbors.
Despite health hazards and plummeting property values, neither the health department nor the county has the authority to condemn the properties.
Travis County Attorney Gary Martin says there are no laws on the books to force property owners or banks to repair homes in the county.
"So counties in Texas cannot do anything, don't have any authority, except what is directly delegated to them by the legislature," adds Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber.
How did it happen? According to Travis County, homeowners living as far away as California and Alaska walked away from the properties during the recession. Some remain stuck in lawsuits to determine who still owns the homes.
Travis County also says PNC Bank acquired the loans and is now paying the property taxes in hopes of recouping its loss in the future.
"As long as the property taxes are being paid, the county isn't necessarily in the position to do something else," said Huber.
That’s frustrating to neighbors like Wesley Mack too. "I don't understand how this could take five years to rectify," he said.
In an email, PNC Bank told the KVUE Defenders, "While we cannot discuss a particular case, we remain open to ideas that protect the interests of those involved while meeting our contractual, regulatory and legal requirements."
Granberry and Mack hope PNC Bank representatives will see video of the abandoned homes and realize there’s little chance of getting money back on their investments.