San Antonio Growing Issue: Investigation reports that fires in empty buildings quickly became a big problem in San Antonio. This is something that the fire department thinks about a lot more every year. The hardworking members of our team have now made a detailed picture of all the dangerously empty buildings spread out across our city.
The picture you’re looking at here only shows 2,000 buildings, a small part of the enormous problem. There are more than 11,000 buildings in all. The terrible situation was described by Michael Shannon, director of the Development Services Department: “We have a lot of cases that are related to vacant structures.”
I had to make an open records request to Shannon’s department to get information about these dangerous and empty buildings. A scary number of buildings have been left blank or overgrown: 9,980. Another 1,178 have been marked as potentially hazardous. People living nearby risk being hurt when these abandoned buildings break the rules and become structural hazards. This is especially true when the facilities are easy to access and need to be more secure.
Always keep in mind that this list still needs to be completed and only has structures that have already been found. We looked at this data to find the places with the most problematic or empty buildings. Districts 2 and 5 stand out as the clear winners on this scary list.
A shocking 2,092 buildings, including homes and businesses, are empty in District 2. These buildings are mostly clustered on the same streets, like on Clark Avenue. There are a total of 2,052 vacant buildings in District 5. Because the problem their people are having is so bad, these numbers show how worried their council leaders are.
Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, the councilman for District 2, explained his view on where these abandoned buildings came from, saying that they were left there by landlords who let valuable property fall into disrepair. Many problems arise, including the growth of camps inside these empty homes.
Councilwoman Teri Castillo of District 5 is determined to find answers because of Houston’s land banking system. Castillo says, “Any properties that have sat vacant for too long, the city acquires that property essentially through the first right of refusal.”
This plan has brought damaged, abandoned, or foreclosed homes in Houston back to life, raising their value and making them suitable for affordable living. In the past 15 years, Houston’s land banking program has brought more than $76 million worth of property back to life. It gives a lot of money to schools and local governments through this program. It eliminates illegal dumping and old buildings that have been left behind.
Shannon and the council members agree that this is a thorny issue that needs a group effort from people in charge of the city, county, and state. It’s essential to take more than one method. McKee-Rodriguez says, “I think it’s going to take a city, county, and state collaborative.” Shannon agrees and stresses the importance of taking safety steps, investing in land trusts, and encouraging investment to get past this huge problem.