LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - It's your money, and Lee County is spending millions to rehab vacant or foreclosed homes. The $18 million Neighborhood Stabilization Project aims to bring new life to areas blighted by vacant, foreclosed homes. Lee County bought 16 abandoned town homes, which it plans to rehab and sell to low-income families.
But some neighbors are upset, saying the county is trying to make their neighborhood "the slums of Southwest Florida."
Camelot Gardens Blvd. off Beth Stacy Blvd is a tight-knit neighborhood. "This was our American dream," Thomas Wickizer said.
They take pride in their homes, but worry their new neighbors might not. "It's quiet, no crime in here, and now we've got this," Ron Grodetz said.
"From what we've seen in the past, any place that has low-income housing also comes the crime, cars up on jacks, the dogs, it doesn't seem anything good comes of it," Ron Davis said.
They're talking about 16 vacant townhouses, soon-to-be home for 16 low-income families. "That's gonna ruin our property values," Wickizer said. "Our property values are very low right now and it's gonna bring them down even lower on account of the economy.."
It's a common concern. But Lee County Human Services Director Ann Arnall says not just anyone will be moving in. Part of the application process includes a criminal background check, and maintenance will be a priority.
"They have strong management practices in place, they have maintenance men by there on a regular basis, they have a housing manager that goes by on a regular basis, they have the right to go inside peoples units and inspect those. These are all things in the lease," Arnall said.
Anyone who doesn't play by the rules will be evicted.
The neighbors are holding a meeting on May 12th in opposition to the project. However, Arnall says it's a done deal. She hopes to have people moving in by the end of summer.