City alderman commits to tearing down abandoned house

City leaders committed to taking action.

ST. LOUIS - For several decades, a 90-year-old north St Louis grandmother had been fighting to get the abandoned house surrounding her home torn down.

Friday, city leaders committed to taking action, after Five On Your Side brought them to the home to see for themselves how bad the situation is.

5 On Your Side first met Annie Bell Owens and her family in March.

Two crumbling, vacant buildings - owned by the city - towered over her home on Highland Avenue. Her family said the buildings were so dangerous, Bell felt like a prisoner in her own home.

"She doesn't do her daily walk anymore because of fear of the house next door. Lose bricks. That window is about to fall out," said Bridget Ton, Bell's grand daughter.

Ton says, their fight to get the buildings torn down started in 1967. Records show a woman was murdered in one of the homes prior to its abandonment.

"We would like to hear more than 'it's on the list'. Will it happen in her life time?" said Ton.

But sadly, it did not happen in Bell's lifetime. She passed away in her home on Mother's Day at the age of 90.

"It's very disappointing to see my momma leave, and see nothing change after all the years she lived here," said Johnny Barnes, Bell's son.

"You have homeowners that pay their taxes, do their due diligence and take care of their property. And you expect the same from the city," said Ton.

According to the city building department, the demolition fund for 2017 could be as little as half a million dollar -- and it takes roughly $8,000 to $10,000 to tear down a building.

Ward 22, where Bell's home is located, has one of the highest percentage of vacant city opened properties, according to Alderman Jeffrey Boyd. Upwards of 400 city owned abandoned properties, and just as many privately owned abandoned properties, says Boyd.

One of the homes beside Bell's property has been on the demolition list since 2013. But 5 On Your Side wanted answers about when something was finally going to be done.

So, 5 On Your Side brought the Jeffrey Boyd, 22nd Ward Alderman to meet Bell's family, and answer some tough questions.

"[The homes] have been here a combined total of 50 years. That's despicable. There's no excuse for that. How much time does anyone need before it starts falling on my mamma's house," Ton asked Alderman Boyd.

After seeing the situation, what did Alderman Boyd say?

"I can assure them this will be a priority when we look at the demolition list. To make sure it gets down this fiscal year before December," said Boyd.

It was welcome news to Annie Bell's family, who plan to stay in their late grandmother's home of 50-plus years.

"We started this quest with [5 On Your Side], to get some sunlight, some attention to this situation. And now she's gone and to honor her memory, we're still fighting to get this taken care of because no one should have to live like this," said Ton.

5 On Your Side will continue to follow up with the family and the city to make sure they follow through with their promise.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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