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Lawton is cracking down on rundown houses

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LAWTON, Okla._Shape up, or ship out. That's what the City of Lawton is telling property owners who have let houses throughout town fall by the wayside.

City council members say they're not going to allow the process to linger the way it has in the past which has allowed rundown, vacant houses to remain standing for months or even years. Now, they're establishing a much shorter timeline for the demolition process to start.

Once council members track down a specific home that's received numerous complaints, they post a notice outside saying a special hearing will be held at the next council meeting. From there, owners have 30 days to get started on renovations. If that doesn't happen then the house will come down, no questions asked. Officials say that's only fair for not just the city, but for those living by the property.

It's no secret that Lawton resident Willa Johnson takes pride in the place she calls home, but just feet away sits an abandoned house that she feels is more than just an eyesore.

"During the summer, the grass grows up real high, the trees grow up around and at nighttime when I come in from church, anybody could be hiding behind the trees," said Johnson.

"It's an eyesore in the community, it brings down the value of the neighbors homes and it's just something that needs to be addressed," said Councilman Keith Jackson.

So the city is going around to repeat offenders and making it official.

"If Neighborhood Services doesn't feel like you're making substantial progress on it, we're going to tear that eyesore down."

Councilman Jackson says the safety of all Lawton residents is the driving force behind the ultimatums.

"If you have a row of bad homes, of dilapidated homes, they're used as drug houses; they're used as meeting places for drug houses and gangs, said Jackson. “We're not out here hunting down to tear down your property, we're simply asking you to fix your property up to where it's in a livable condition."

"The house can't be fixed and nobody can live in it so just clean it away from there," said Johnson.

Demolishing a home could cost as much as $5,000 to for the city so Jackson says they're currently working on a revolving fund where money used for that purpose will be paid back once the deed for the cleared property is repurchased.

So far, out of the 416 listings on the city's radar, only seven are currently being remodeled by owners.

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