A recent effort to tackle neighborhood blight in north Lake Charles has seen real returns over the past year, officials said Thursday, giving hope to longtime residents who want to see their area improve.
About 34 tax-delinquent properties in north Lake Charles have been auctioned off online since the launch of a pilot program in late 2016.
The Lake Charles North Redevelopment Authority spearheaded the program through a partnership with New Orleans-based CivicSource.com, which brings adjudicated properties to market through its online platform.
About 94 properties are on the website, and more should go up later this year, said authority President Kathleen Dorsey Bellow.
Bellow said she was pleased to see nearly three dozen properties find new owners through the process, especially since most buyers are local — about 90 percent of people who buy properties through CivicSource statewide are residents of that area, according to company officials.
“I am encouraged because people who either grew up in the neighborhood or go to church here are buying properties, so it’s people affiliated with the neighborhood,” said Bellow.
Representatives of CivicSource hosted two outreach meetings on Thursday for people interested in learning more about the program. They took residents through the process of ownership, from putting down the $850 deposit to bidding on auction day.
About 20 residents attended the morning session, asking questions about the overall cost and how to navigate the website.
Resident Jerry Adams, who attended the morning session, said he was surprised to learn that properties often go for as little as $5,000-$10,000 — a nominal charge compared with the high cost of real estate on the private market. He said new construction could only be a good thing for the area.
“Anytime the public is offered to buy property in their own neighborhood and community it’s a good thing,” said Darol King, who also attended the meeting.
King, owner of Mariah’s Christian Preschool, said he plans to buy two properties within the year for either a business or housing development. He may consider expanding the preschool if he finds the right property.
“We have to turn so many people away because it’s a needed service,” King said. “If we can find a building I can renovate, boy that would be really nice.”
Beau Buyers, a title agent for CivicSource, said the company usually collects $5,100 of the sale price to cover the cost of legal work, with the remainder going to the city. So far, property sales through CivicSource have brought the city $43,000.
Buyers said this money helps alleviate the financial burden Lake Charles has experienced from years of taking care of tax-delinquent properties — mowing lawns and making sure they were in compliance.
He said on average the properties CivicSource sells have been tax delinquent for over 20 years.