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'That’s an issue' | Atlanta city council member pushes for change after childhood home demolished

Lewis said he tried to save his own childhood home from demolition, but there was too much red tape. Now, he wants to make sure others aren’t losing their homes.

ATLANTA — Atlanta City Council member Antonio Lewis grew up at a home on Atlaview Drive.

Now, there's no home to show-- just an empty lot.

“That’s the basketball goal I grew up on,” he said, pointing to an old hoop. It's one of the few things still standing that remind him of his childhood home.

Lewis said his grandmother fell behind on her taxes and the house fell into disrepair. It was then put on the demolition list. Lewis tried to save it, but he couldn’t.

Credit: WXIA

"I was told once a house goes on the list to be demolished, you can’t take it off,” Lewis said. “That’s an issue.”

He said he tried to save his own childhood home from demolition, but there was too much red tape. Now, he wants to make sure others aren’t losing their homes because of that.

Fighting to get off the list

In April, 11Alive introduced you to another person fighting to get his home off the city's demolition list.

“After I bought the property, a week later there was a demolition notice on the property,” Swapan Kumar said.

Credit: WXIA

Kumar has been fighting the city for almost two years to get the home off that list.

RELATED: 'There are no ifs or buts' | Why Atlanta is tearing down a house a man says is in good condition

“They say they’re no ifs or buts, they’re tearing the property down,” he said, despite having $30,000 to fix it up.

Meanwhile, Lewis said the system is broken.

“You should be able to call someone and say, 'hey I can fix this gutter, don’t tear my house down','” he said.

Pushing for a pause

Lewis is proposing a 90-day moratorium on home demolitions. He said homeowners should be able to appeal to the city if they’re on the demolition list.

And this is not the only issue he said he's experiencing. 

Credit: WXIA

“I can’t tell you the exact price we’re paying to demolish a house," he said. “I know it’s not the same price as if I was to go to a person and ask them to demolish my house.” 

He said this makes him question whether demolitions are being run efficiently for taxpayers.

11Alive investigators obtained records of property demolitions in the city for the last two years and found Atlanta paid more than $4 million to tear down 115 properties. That's about $34,782.61 a home.

However, putting a hold on property demolitions doesn’t come without drawbacks.

"A moratorium would probably feel very frustrating to a community that's like, 'do something about this',” said Odetta MacLeish-White, who works for the Center for Community Progress, a non-profit focused on addressing abandoned and deteriorating properties across the country. 

Credit: WXIA

She said those types of properties hurt neighbors and neighborhoods; however, tearing them down without a plan for the future is a mistake.

“If the folks who have accountability to residents do not feel secure that they understand what would come, that would be a fairly powerful reason to take a pause,” Macleish-White said.  

'I don't think what we're doing now is the answer'

Lewis said a pause would be helpful for the property owners.

“To me, the pause would give us time to actually meet with these vendors to see what’s going on and to talk about what we think should be going on,” Lewis said.

For now, the lot where Lewis’ home once stood remains empty. Lewis said he wants to rebuild on it someday. Until then, he said he hopes he can eventually save others from that same headache and heartache.

Credit: WXIA

“I don’t know the answer to how to fix it yet," he said. "But I don’t think what we’re doing right now is the answer-- I know that’s not the answer.” 

Lewis’ home demolition moratorium proposal was introduced to the committee and has yet to go before the full council. He said he hopes to do that soon to keep more homes from being torn down for good.

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