Still Standing

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by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 22 at 9:30 AM

TRAVIS COUNTY -- Abandoned and dangerous homes continue to rot inside a western Travis County neighborhood.

In September, the KVUE Defenders first exposed the problem and neighbors’ concerns the properties were impacting their home values and safety. While the homes remain a nuisance, the Defenders have learned the bank paying the property taxes on the homes may be trying to sell them.

"Dangerous, absolutely," said Wesley Mack describing one of the abandoned properties across the street from his home.

In all, there are five half-built homes in similar conditions with wood paneling falling off, holes in roofs and rusty nails sticking out of wood.

All were abandoned by their former owners more than five years ago. Some of the eyesores sit next to estates worth half-a-million dollars.

Over the past few years, Travis County’s Health Department cited the properties for numerous health hazards, including "substandard structures, decay able waste and rubbish.”

Despite the violations, Travis County has no legal authority to condemn the properties because PNC Bank continues to pay the property taxes.

"If I was the bank and I had a property like this, I would take every opportunity to get rid of it,” explained neighbor Chuck Granberry in September.

He and other neighbors are paying the price with depreciating home values. He purchased his home in 2007 for more than $540,000. It’s now valued about $60,000 less.

There’s some encouragement though. One of the properties has a for sale sign on it and other may follow suit.

Barry Brooks is an Austin investor trying to buy three of the five abandoned homes. He contacted PNC Bank after watching KVUE's original story.

"I told them I had money ready in hand. I had buyers right here ready. Let's just work a deal out, and I'll solve your problem," contended Brooks.

In February, Brooks says PNC Bank even sent him an email writing, "We are confirming we are accepting your offer…for each of the three properties."

Brooks says the bank later changed its mind.

PNC Bank declined any interviews, but did write to KVUE that, "We do not comment on properties we own or service."

While happy to see the properties getting attention, Mack and his neighbors won't be satisfied until he sees the homes replaced or gone.

“PNC Bank is a big bank, a big company, so five abandoned homes in Lakeway probably doesn't mean a whole lot to them, but obviously, it does mean a lot to the 20 or so households in this neighborhood,” Mack said.

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