Ridding Mobile of abandoned and condemned homes is a priority for Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his administration. But the cost of achieving that goal could be going up significantly.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the demolition of four homes. The council routinely deals with demolishing structures to decrease blight in the city. But the four houses this week were the first that came with lead-based paint or asbestos remission costs.
Through its Bloomberg innovation grant to fight urban blight, city crews recently traveled every city street and identified 1256 structures that need to go. In the process, officials realized that the City may not have properly addressed lead and asbestos removal in the dozens of demolitions that have taken place over the years.
“When we stared to make demolition a priority we also started to raise the red flags because of the age of our homes, we had to be very diligent in checking for lead paint and asbestos,” said Colby Cooper, City of Mobile Chief of Staff.
The EPA has strict guidelines for demolishing homes. The required testing, mitigation, and inspection involving harmful materials can close to triple the cost
“On average, we’re going from $3,500 to $10,000, so that math is significant,” Cooper said.
The math says the City may now be able to take down only a third of what it used to for the same amount of money. The administration, though, says it remains committed to tackling urban blight.
“It’s something we’re taking very serious and I’m not going to say it’s something we have to stop doing because resources aren’t there,” said Cooper. “But it’s something that the mayor has committed himself to figuring out how to address.”
Cooper says he doesn’t think the City faces any repercussions from EPA for possibly razing homes that contained Lead-based paint or asbestos. In a statement to News-5 he said, “When we were aware of the need for lead paint or asbestos mitigation during demolition we handled accordingly. As such, we are proceeding in a diligent manner that complies with State and Federal requirements.”