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Davenport leaders consider new tactic to clean up vacant properties

DAVENPORT-- PJ Slobojan will do just about anything to keep her pride and joy kept and vibrant. It's her home from the 1860s. On Wednesday she uses a ladder and a fresh coat of paint.

Her neighborhood just north of downtown Davenport used to be the place to be.

"This is the original movers and shakers of Davenport who bought their houses in this area," says Slobojan.

But things have changed. Homes just across the street have lost their color and sit vacant. Throughout the city, more than 800 properties sit vacant.

"Yes, it's really unfortunate, but nothing can be done until someone steps up," says Slobojan.

Third Ward Alderman Marion Meginnis says she's committed to turning these eyesores into homes again. And she has an idea how. It's a way for the city to use the law to take ownership of properties that are abandoned.

"The city goes to court and says to the judge, judge, we believe this property is abandoned, and we are asking you to give us this property," explains Meginnis.

If the court agrees, there's a hearing to decide if it should remain with the property owner or go to the city. If the city wins, they get the property with a clean title.

The law's not new, but it's never been used in Davenport.

Some raise the question of individual property rights being taken away, and some worry the city would get stuck with the vacant properties, creating even more work.

In the meantime, this painter is doing her part.

"If you have a lot of houses that are started on, or you see people working, that gives more incentive to new people who want to buy because they can see progress being made," says Slobojan.

But she can't make the change alone.