A big challenge in some southern Dallas neighborhoods is getting property owners to fix up their homes and help spruce up their street. For many, the failure to do so is a matter of economics. If they barely can afford things such as food and health care, cosmetic home repairs drop way down the priority list.
Some homeowners, however, have no such worries. While their houses in southern Dallas sit empty and boarded up – vulnerable to invasion by homeless people and drug addicts – absentee owners enjoy vastly better accommodations far away. Try taking our virtual video tour of a few choice houses in South Dallas (gapblog.dallasnews.com) and their owners' accommodations. The difference is eye-popping.
The owner of a boarded-up duplex at 1715 Bannock, which has a code-violation warning sign in front, lives in a 4,200-square-foot, $487,000 house in Allen. Brett Szumera says high levels of vandalism and theft have made him regret buying the property. He stopped visiting it two years ago and now relies on the city to mow the lawn, despite the fees and fines he accrues.
A house at 5015 Colonial is so rickety it's barely able to stand on its own, in sharp contrast to where the owner lives, on Tracy Street in Duncanville. Sandra Everett, whose mother owns the Colonial Avenue house, says the family tried for years to maintain the property but gave up. Drug addicts and thieves have gutted the house of all plumbing and wiring.
"Today, you're scared to go down there to mow your own property," Everett said.
Then there are owners like Dennis Topletz and George Works. They own scores of houses all over southern Dallas, many in disrepair. Topletz says these houses are a last resort for many. "It they didn't rent from us, they would be on the streets," he says. He added that the houses are "probably not what you or I would want to live in, but they're affordable." Tax records list the Topletz house at 5020 Colonial as "unsound."
"It's always been a minefield down there," Works complains. A drug bust and fire caused him to board up one property at 1724 Marburg. "The cops don't help us."
Compare Colonial Avenue's moonscape to Topletz's own $3.3 million estate on Inwood or the $2.6 million house under the Works family name in Highland Park. See anything wrong with this picture?
No wonder resentments run high in southern Dallas when the rest of the city looks down on certain neighborhoods with disdain, wondering why residents don't fix things up. Certainly, city code enforcers and police must do their part to keep vagrants out and ensure that all properties are maintained at an acceptable standard.
But the north-south gap can only grow wider when absentee owners allow these eyesore properties to deteriorate while they enjoy the good life elsewhere. TAKE a virtual video tour of South Dallas homes in need of repair, and find a link to the Dallas Central Appraisal District database.