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Vacant lots abound in Mérida. Photo: Sipse

Mérida, Yucatán — So far this year, 63 property owners have been fined a combined 2.7 million pesos over vacant lots that were allowed to become dumping grounds.

Abandoned lots and properties have bedeviled city authorities for years, who for health, safety, public image and economic reasons, want owners to care for their properties.

The city has counted around 10,000 vacant lots, 600 of which have become clandestine landfills, writes Sipse.

Mauricio Díaz Montalvo, of the city Commission for Urban Development and Public Works, said that property owners are given a chance to clear their properties themselves before the city comes in and does the work.

But if that happens, the property owner will pay for the city labor and pay both a fine and higher property taxes. In fact, a homeowner’s property tax bill could practically triple, Mayor Mauricio Vila Dosal told Sipse.

More complicated are abandoned properties with deteriorating buildings.

Vila Dosal, interviewed by Diario de Yucatán after an event at La Mejorada Park, estimated there are 8,000-10,000 unoccupied properties, residential or otherwise, in the Historic Center.

Rubble lies on the sidewalk in front of an abandoned house on Calle 47. Photo: Diario de Yucatán

A two-story house on Calle 47 between 60 and 62 is alarming neighbors because pieces of it could fall on the busy street, used by motorists to access the Paseo de Montejo.

Two other buildings in similar circumstances are at Calle 52 and 71. Again, they become not only an illegal dumping ground, but often a refuge for squatters.

“We have to do something, but now,” said a neighbor.

When it rains the house starts to drop stones, said the employee of a tailor’s shop in front of the house on 47, saying he has witnessed pedestrians struck by then.

“Of course there is fear of a collapse … Every day children, adults and a lot of vehicles pass through this street,” said the worker, who in his 20 years in the shop, has watched the property’s gradual decline.

The city has a challenge tracking down absentee owners living outside the city, often in another country.

Roberto Reyes Pérez, an architecture professor at the state university of Yucatán, urged a mechanism to rescue heritage homes.

Authorities have the jurisdiction to expropriate these buildings and intervene, but if the city does not have the resources to buy or rescue them, a financing program must be established, he said.

Sources: Sipse, Diario de Yucatán, Desde el Balcón

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