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      Derelict housing repair program saves dilapidated homes

      For the past three years, under the cityâ??s derelict housing repair program, dilapidated houses are being refurbished instead of being torn down.

      Under Iowa legislation, the city is able to acquire abandoned and often unlivable houses by petitioning the court. Once the city gets a title on the house, it sells the home to a party who can repair it. Ottumwa's Health and Inspections Director says through this program, they have been able to save nearly 30 houses from being demolished.

      â??When the state changed its laws to allow the city to petition the court to get title instead of demolishing the house and paying a great deal of money to do that, the city can get titled to a property and sell it to somebody to repair, so that it's back on the tax rolls, and nobody spends any money demolishing the property and it improves neighborhoods instead of leaving a vacant lot,â?? Jody Gates said.

      Ottumwa expects to obtain 10 to 12 houses to refurbish next year.