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Hidalgo Co. City Cracks Down on Vacant Homes

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WESLACO – Weslaco city officials said they survey empty homes to determine which ones should be taken down.

According to the city, not all empty houses are abandoned. They take the necessary steps to notify property owners about the upkeep of the structures and its parameters.

Resident Antonio Rodriguez lives in a Weslaco neighborhood. Earlier this year, the city tore down a neglected home behind his house.

“There’s been a few more popping up, I guess, now that people are leaving the city,” he said. “I’m not too sure what it is. More of them are popping up and it kind of gets disturbing to drive by and see them.”

Rodriguez said the homes can also pose a danger to the community.

“We would get random people coming up messing with the house. Of course, it’s abandoned. They would throw objects, they would make a mess there, leave mess there, leave trash,” he said.

He concluded the house became abandoned after people stopped showing up to maintain it.

“I think it was only cut once since I’ve been here, and it was already four feet tall,” he said. “They finally cut that, and it was about the same time they started getting rid of the house.”

Weslaco Code Enforcement director Joe Pedraza said even though no one is living in the homes, they may sometimes not be abandoned.

“Abandoned for us is typically a house with no power, no water. The house looks deteriorated. We’ve been having a problem within the sense of high weeds, cutting it,” he said. “Typically tenants move out, they’re not taking care of it. Property owners come in, clean it up and put it up for rent. The house is (then) considered vacant.”

Pedraza said every year Code Enforcement officers travel around the city in search of damaged or ruined homes.

“Even if it’s still being maintained, we’ll still look at it. If you can see the database that we have there’s a list of properties that even though – like I said, it can be vacant – they could have power but our guys still take a look at it,” Pedraza said.

He said they later post notices on the home to notify property owners about their condition and what the city is requesting to be done.

“This coming year, it’s the same thing. We go through the same process again. We evaluate 20 to 30 homes. Then we’ll start cutting down the list, and at that point I’ll make the determination as to which ones are in bad condition, kind of prioritize them,” he said.

If homeowners fail to respond and the home is on their priority list, Pedraza said the city will knock them down and put a lien on the property.

Rodriguez said he hopes something beneficial will come out of the empty lot behind his home.

“The city should keep up with that kind of stuff. I’m not sure if it raises the value of the land or anything, but it definitely makes way for other people and it’s a lot cleaner,” he said.

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