Jax woman who purchased vacant house says city is hindering, not helping

By Jim McCabe on August 13 at 7:26am

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A Jacksonville woman claims the city is not giving her enough time to fix up a house she purchased several years ago.

Richelle Handling, who lives in a home in the 700 block of South Main, voiced her concerns at Monday’s city council meeting. She says she’s been dealing with code enforcement, showing up in municipal court as a result every few weeks for the last year.

Handling says the house sat vacant for nearly a decade. Teens doing drugs, vandalism, and rotting trees were all problems affecting the property, according to Handling. As a single mother of two making minimum wage, she says she’s doing all she can.

“I know that Morgan County Housing Authority and some of the other housing agencies have had a very long waiting list for people, and Section 8 has, I think the last I heard, was a maybe two-year waiting list, and you have these homes available for people, and so I managed to take one and start fixing it up and doing the best that I could,” says Handling.

“It was something that I could afford, and I fixed it up a little bit at a time, and I made a ten-year plan.”

But Handling says that’s apparently not quick enough for city code enforcement.

“I don’t feel that I’ve really been able to work with them in a conducive manner. I’ve been fined, which doesn’t help the progress of the house. I’ve been threatened from various things of, anywhere from they’re going to take me to circuit court and put me in jail. During Christmastime, they had said they were going to show an order to rule cause, which would cause me to be forced to sell or auction my home,” claims Handling.

“What it feels like to me, in my instance, is that they would rather see an abandoned house and leave it empty again.”

And she adds that she’s heard stories of other people pushed out by the city.

“They feel that they’re being attacked by a collection agents instead of someone wanting to rebuild our community,” she says.

Handling says she’s encouraged the city to pursue a grant similar to the Morgan County Housing Authority weatherization program. She says she also spoke to Habitat For Humanity, but that the non-profit is only able to build new houses, not fix existing ones.

She adds that the Morgan County assessor’s office raised her property taxes by $1-thousand annually, which she says is an indicator of the progress she’s made.

Handling says litigation against the city might be an option, and she believes she is being discriminated against.

City Attorney Dan Beard stated Monday night the City of Jacksonville cannot comment on ongoing code violation cases.

Full interview is below.