ANNISTON, Ala. —
The Rev. Mary Golden has lived on Pine Avenue with her daughter and son-in-law for about six years.
They’re proud of the two-story house they bought to shelter their large family, Golden said, and they’ve been fixing up the west Anniston residence since they moved in.
But while their house sits on a neatly kept corner lot, the view from their porch isn’t as nice. Across one street, the grass and weeds grow waist-high and higher. Across the other street, a house with part of its roof caved in has sat empty for a year. Behind it a massive tree trunk toppled in the yard has sat so long it is nearly covered with vines.
The lot right next door is empty, but it is neatly cut only because her granddaughter cuts it.
“We’ve been having trouble with so many field rats and mice,” Golden said.
Their problem isn’t an isolated one. Nuisance properties and empty lots dot the city’s poorer neighborhoods, creating problems with pests, havens for illegal activities and making the neighborhoods appear less safe, the neighbors of the properties say.
The city is working to change things.
City Manager Don Hoyt came to Anniston by way of Litchfield, Mich., where he watched the revival of Flint, Mich., after its economic tumble in the 1980s. Michigan’s Genessee County Land Bank, Hoyt thought, could be the model for a possible solution to Anniston’s nuisance property problem.
The land bank, created in Flint in 2004, acquires abandoned properties and prepares them for sale or development. The program helped to get such property into the hands of local governments, which in turn helped to make it available to responsible new owners, often the owners of property right next door.