- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Officials in Covington have partnered with “community developers” to help reduce the amount of blight in the northern Kentucky city.

The Kentucky Enquirer (http://cin.ci/1xF6iIv) reports the agreement allows different groups including residents, businesses and community organizations to purchase and rehab vacant properties as long as the city is able to foreclose on them. Some of the 17 properties involved in the first phase have sat empty for 20 years.

That means people like Stephen and Jill Hardewig will be able to purchase a lot behind their home that has sat vacant for a decade and turn it into off-street parking.

The Hardewigs were among eight buyers who signed contracts recently with the city to become “community developers.”

“They can’t find the people who originally owned the property,” Jill Hardewig said. “Wouldn’t you rather have somebody there that’s going to pay those taxes and do something constructive with the property? We’ve been waiting for the city to institute this program.”

All involved hope it leads to a prettier city with higher property values.

Christian Dennery, interim city solicitor, says officials hope to get more community developers involved in the program.

“We get inquiries on a daily basis from people wondering about vacant, abandoned properties making their lives miserable,” Dennery said.

Rachel Hastings, director of neighborhood and housing initiatives for the non-profit Center for Great Neighborhoods in Covington, said without the program, vacant properties would likely sit and get worse. The center purchased nine homes through the program and plan on rehabbing them.

“One of the properties we’re trying to get has been owned by this mortgage company in California for like 20 years,” Hastings said. “They probably don’t even know they own it. The city has sent them letters. We sent them letters. It’s lost in outer space. The city has liens on it for cutting grass. Without a program like this to really force the issue, it’s just going to sit there in limbo forever.”

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Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com

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