Rehabilitated, foreclosed homes sitting empty costing taxpayers

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Major delays in a program that was supposed to help Orange County neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis is costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Orange County received $40 million in federal money to have foreclosed homes fixed up, bought and moved into. One of the goals was to make sure the homes weren’t bought by investors.

An audit by the comptroller’s office however, found big delays left 43 of the homes sitting empty for months, and in some cases years, costing $121,000 in federal money to maintain.

“When it’s just sitting there for months and nothing’s been done, it seems like a waste of money,” resident Myrna Figueroa said.

WFTV’s Lori Brown found one of the county’s foreclosed homes that was fixed up through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. That home has been sitting empty for two years and three months.

Neighbors said the nicely renovated, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house has looked move-in ready for months, yet there’s no “for sale” sign and it’s not on any real estate website.

“We rent here but we’re looking to buy, we keep waiting to see what that house is going to go for,” Figueroa said.

Mitchel Glasser, who heads the program, blames the delays on an overload of inventory.

“Quite frankly, we have a lot of listings and a lot of homes under contract,” Glasser said.

Chris Dawkins with Orange County’s audit division said the program may have got a little ahead of itself.

“They spent more time buying homes and maintaining the inventory, rather than making sure the inventory they had was being rehabilitated and turned back into the economy,” Dawkins said.

Glasser said renovations are now either underway or finished on all of the homes cited in the audit.