Oak Ridge neighborhood demolishes first blighted home

OAK RIDGE (WATE) – Residents in Anderson County said goodbye to an abandoned home in their neighborhood on Wednesday to make room for a community green space. The Oak Ridge Land Bank demolished its first vacant property under the state’s Blight Elimination Program.

The property looked like a pile of rubble after construction crews tore down the vacant building, but neighbors on West Outer Drive in Oak Ridge see it as progress.

“It’s a good thing. It’s really a good thing,” said Helen Perkins, a resident living in Oak Ridge.

Helen Perkins has watched the home across the street sit empty for more than five years, wondering why the windows were boarded up.

Perkins adds, “I never saw a for sale sign out there.”

The previous homeowners abandoned the property, eventually leaving it to become dilapidated and unsafe.

Lindsay Hall, with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency said, “It devalues the properties around them, so it affects homeowner’s values and equities in their properties. It can also create criminal activity because the property is vacant and people can get into anytime and it also creates a health hazard.”

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the Oak Ridge Land Bank used the state’s Blight Elimination Program to target problem houses like this one and demolish it.

Neighbors living along West Outer Drive were relieved to see the vacant home torn down. It was not only an eyesore; it was becoming a safety issue.

Perkins adds, “I know eventually someone is going to find out that it’s empty. And they’re going to be over there, either doing drugs or sleeping there, and having no business there.”

The community can choose how to use the property and residents on this project have expressed their interest in extra parking spaces or a green space.

Under the Blight Elimination Program, land banks and qualified nonprofits can apply for loans of up to $25,000 to cover the cost of acquiring an abandoned home, demolishing it, and greening and maintaining the property. The lot can then be transformed into new affordable housing or another use approved by THDA for the stabilization of the surrounding neighborhood. THDA monitors the completion of each project and forgives the loan after three years, or sooner for certain uses.

Anderson County is one of six counties where Blight Elimination Program funds are currently available. The others are Knox, Hamilton, Shelby, Montgomery and Rutherford.

THDA launched the Blight Elimination Program last year with $6 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), which was created to stabilize neighborhoods and prevent foreclosures.

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