CHARLESTON, WV -
Another task force is coming together to help revitalize Charleston’s west side. State Senator Brooks McCabe is leading the newest effort and says his focus is on improving housing.
“I think most people are afraid [of the west side], they don’t feel safe,” said McCabe. “They read about all these crimes, and it has deteriorated the last couple of years, and we have to turn it around.”
McCabe will be working with the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority. Authority board members say they hope to replace dilapidated and abandoned structures in the city with newer buildings. McCabe believes the large number of run-down structures is contributing to criminal activity.
“You have homes that are not meeting code that are just being rented to anybody,” he said.
Kevin Knowles lives just a few blocks away from a stretch of abandoned homes he says he's been waiting years for the city do to something about.
"There's a quite a few of them here on the west side,” he said. “Some of them need to be torn down because some of them are being used for drug houses."
McCabe says he envisions the task force going through the city block by block, evaluating old properties and deciding if they need to be renovated or demolished.
Neighbors say all it takes it for one bad house to ruin an entire neighborhood, which is why they hope this plan will succeed.
"People don't want to buy property down here because of the people on the streets, the prostitutes, the drug dealers,” said Knowles.
Members of the task force say they hope to attract some additional participants, including West VirginiaUniversity as well as the West Side’s Tuesday Morning Group. Their goal is to increase home ownership in the area in the next three to five years.