Abandoned homes in Lake Worth concern residents, city is working to deal with growing problem

Lake Worth estimates 10% of homes vacant in city

LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- - They are empty, an eyesore and can be very dangerous.

Abandoned homes are impacting neighborhoods in Lake Worth as the problem continues to grow.

On Tuesday night, a vacant home went up in flames on 14th and L Street. The scene caused panic for nearby homeowners who feared the fire could head their way next.

"We tend to not go to that side of the street to be honest," said Steven Johnson, who lives in South Lake Worth.

The flames could be seen from the backyard where Johnson lives. He called 911 on Tuesday but now worries his neighborhood might not be so lucky next time.
"We try to be as vigilante as we can as a neighborhood, but you can't catch everything," said Johnson.

It is not just one home. The vacant homes scattered all over the city.

"It's devastating in a lot of ways because those abandoned houses or properties that are in disrepair are a blighting influence and if you're not careful they can get out of hand," said Michael Bornstein, the City of Lake Worth city manager.

Bornstein said more than 10% of the properties in Lake Worth are currently foreclosed or vacant. He estimates 1,500 properties are abandoned out of the 13,000 that fill the city.

But the situation is changing according to Bornstein. He said his staff has rewritten the city code to involved law enforcement, put more responsibility on property owners and even go after demolitions of homes.

Homeowner Steven Johnson is hopeful the situation can change.

"We moved here ten years ago and the street did not look as good as it did does now. So we've definitely seen some improvements and I'm looking forward to seeing more," said Johnson.

The City of Lake Worth said the best situation is to get someone back into one of the abandoned homes.

When cases where occupation by a family is not an option, the city is considering letting local fire departments use the homes for training.