Residents frustrated by foreclosure eyesores

July 26, 2008 6:31:15 PM PDT
Neighbors in several Bay Area cities hope the mortgage bill will help revitalize homes left in limbo, abandoned by people who can no longer afford them. However, some people in Richmond are taking a hand-on approach to keep foreclosed homes from becoming eyesores.

Residents in the East Bay are putting sweat equity into their own home investments by voluntarily maintaining the yards of abandoned homes in the neighborhood.

Three homes on Rich Nelson's street in Antioch have sat vacant for a year following foreclosure. After awhile, Nelson took it upon himself to clean up the overgrown yards.

"When I'd mow my lawn, I would see it. I'd come over and spend probably 10, 15 minutes, you know, just out of frustration," says Nelson.

A few blocks over, we found a gardening crew restoring the yard at a home on Fawn Hill Way. The owners abandoned it last year. Across the street, Peter Wilson not only had to look at it, he had to contend with another foreclosed home next door.

"The weeds in the backyard were three feet tall and they were all seeding into my backyard, so I called the realtor and he came out and brought a crew out actually and cleaned the yard up," says Wilson.

"It's frustrating, it really is. We made our calls to the city and the city came out and they would spray the pool and they'd do what they can, but it's bank owned. That's a whole process," says Nelson.

In Richmond, neighbors are reaping the rewards of self-initiative, spending weekends maintaining the yards of abandoned homes.

"We got together in this neighborhood and said there are homes that need to have their front yards cleaned up because they've been abandoned. Why can't we just go out and take care of it?" says homeowner Kate Sibley.

Together a group of women launched GIVE (Grassroots Initiative for Volunteer Energy). They say it's not a matter of being a good neighbor, it's about protecting their own homes which is their biggest investment.

"We see the financial landscape for what it is -- that this is a problem that's going to be with us for awhile and it's larger than any municipality can handle on its own," says homeowner Kerry Moriarty.

Once a month, Antioch police sponsor a clean-up day in a particular neighborhood. The city provides the supplies and the neighbors provide the labor. They can't legally go on to private property, but they can clean up around it.

In Richmond, the GIVE volunteers say they did some research, and as long as there isn't a no-trespassing sign posted, they can go ahead and clean up.


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