Officials in a Pennsylvania town are hoping to demolish a handful of vacant homes that have been repeatedly targeted by squatters and drug users, local reports show.
Local leaders in Jeannette, which is located about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, declared 10 vacant homes in the town public nuisances last week over property maintenance issues and repeated break-ins from squatters, Trib Live reported.
For one home located on Fifth Street, squatters built an open fire to heat up canned pasta and to use as a drug den, according to the town’s fire chief Bill Frye.
“They actually were cooking with fire in the building,” Frye told Trib Live. “They had a fire inside the floor and were cooking Chef Boyardee raviolis.”
He said the location has been a “prime spot” for illegal activity.
Officials are hoping to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to tear the 10 vacant homes down, while dozens of other dilapidated homes are awaiting consideration to also be deemed public nuisances and eventually demolished.
“It’s a blessing for a lot of people to take this pressure off,” Mayor Curtis Antoniak said, according to Trib Live. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing the county is doing for these people.”
Frye said another vacant home on Third Street was reportedly used by kids to play inside, leaving accumulated trash.
“The whole kitchen’s full of garbage,” Frye told Trib Live.
A report from earlier this year found that there are roughly 16 million homes that sit vacant in the U.S., according to Census Bureau data. In recent months, homeowners across the country have been sounding the alarm on squatters taking over a home after it had been sitting unoccupied, or through squatters forging paperwork to claim residency.
A Texas public school teacher and her family, for example, were evicted from a luxury Houston home earlier this summer after they allegedly fraudulently took over the home for months using a forging lease. In Florida, officials began dismantling structures on an island dubbed “meth island” this summer after it was overtaken by squatters.
While in Washington state, officials said this year that eviction notices spiked by as much as 39% from 2021 to 2022, when the state ended its eviction moratorium rolled out during the pandemic.