7th Ward residents: Complaints about blighted home that burned, Monday, were ignored

7th Ward residents: Complaints about blighted home that burned, Monday, were ignored

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When a blighted home caught fire at North Claiborne and St. Bernard Avenue Monday afternoon, no one seemed surprised.

"Wood framed dwelling unoccupied. It's been unoccupied since Hurricane Katrina," said Captain Ed Holmes with the New Orleans Fire Department.

"Going back five years, that the city knew it was blighted," said Bobby Delaughter with Home Finders International.

Delaughter works for the owner of the pink home at 1644 North Claiborne. It's the renovated house next door to the home that caught fire.

"(The owner) received a notice from the city department of code enforcement stating that her property at 1644 North Claiborne was blighted," said Delaughter. "I knew that was incorrect because of the work that was done."

Delaughter says they quickly responded to the city to explain that the blighted home was not the 1644 address but was actually the abandoned home next door.

Currently there are 10 violations and nearly-five thousand dollars in code enforcement liens. Josephine James, 79, owned the blighted property.

"I feel better knowing that nobody was in there that was hurt by the fire," said James.

She told FOX 8 there was no running water or electricity to the home.

James said she wanted to repair the house but was never able to get work done.

"The owner did state the had tried off and on for renovations and she had complained recently about seeing vagrants," said Capt. Holmes.

The city says the home was eventually sited to be demolished in the coming days. Delaughter, though, says for years he's complained to the city but nothing was done.

"I found it necessary to notify them in writing as well with photographs and Ms. James, the owner of the property that it was blighted and it was getting worse and our building was in danger because of it," said Delaughter.

When the house caught fire, it collapsed and left significant damage to the renovated double next door.

Delaughter says it will likely cost the owner more than a hundred thousand dollars to repair. And the current tenant of the home has to find another place to live.

"I love New Orleans. I have a different opinion of the City of New Orleans. They're a nightmare to work with. I don't know why anyone wants to do business in New Orleans. The red tape is horrendous," said Delaughter.

The city says it eliminated more than 15,000 blighted units between 2010 and 2015. This year, the city's approved 137 properties to be part of the FEMA demolition program.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.