Austin homeowners raise concerns over vacant properties and 311 complaints

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some Austin residents are growing concerned for what they fear is real estate developers buying properties around the city and leaving them unoccupied for so long, it arguably attracts more problems for the neighborhood. These properties, they say, are becoming more than just eyesores.

One viewer reached out to KXAN about a vacant property on Powell Circle near central Austin. He said stray cats have taken over the home, along with various homeless people.

“I have seen people out there that I know don’t belong on the property. And, of course, when I start asking what they’re doing there, they just wander off and disappear. But, that’s only until they know nobody’s around and then they’re back again,” Eddie Craig explained. “It shouldn’t be sitting there this long. It’s been there, coming up on close to two years now that this particular place hasn’t had anything done to it.”

Craig walks his dog multiple times a day and looks out for his neighbors.

“I happened to be out walking with my dog one day, around the middle of the day, in fact. This lady for whatever reason, decided she couldn’t make it up to the gas station at the corner and decided to walk into the yard and defecate up against the side of the house there,” Craig said. “Thinking she was hidden, but when she was actually in plain view of the school yard and everything else.”

The property is directly across the street from Dawson Elementary School near South First Street.

“Most of the folks in this neighborhood — they take pride in their house. They try to keep it maintained. Then you have places like this where there’s no one there and it takes weeks to get something cleaned up,” Craig continued.

Fallen tree limbs in front of the property, neighbors say, have also become a hazard.

“The center of it’s dead and it’s coming apart, limb by limb — gigantic limb in some cases. The last one before this one that’s in the yard now was so big it took up half the street when it fell off and I had to drag it up in the yard just to get the street clear,” Craig said.

According to Austin 311, a service request was created on Thursday and sent to Austin Code Enforcement to investigate. An official with code enforcement showed up while we were there Friday, but he stayed on site for only a few minutes.

The only other service request 311 says they have for the address was a report of tree limbs blocking a sidewalk. That service request was created on April 4 and sent to the Austin Public Works Department for review.

KXAN also reached out to APD to find out how many 911 calls officers have responded to at the address, if any. We have not yet heard back.

According to the Travis Central Appraisal District, a real estate developer currently owns the property, but it has switched hands three times since February 2018.

Craig says the City of Austin could arguably be to blame for the duration of these issues — at least, in part. He says permits, oftentimes, take too long or are too difficult to obtain.

“Everybody’s trying to get their money made and their business done, but bureaucracy and money is standing in the way.”

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