Harrisburg to buy 52 homes affected by sinkhole

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- After two years of uncertainty for neighbors, the city of Harrisburg makes an announcement on what the future holds for one block of South 14th Street affected by sinkholes.

Some residents tell us it brings relief while others it brings the unknown of where will they live next.

Some people who live on the block say they were caught off guard with the latest developments, because soon South 14th Street wont be the only thing closed. All 52 houses are about to find a buyer.

More than three and a half years after sinkholes first appeared on south 14th street near Magnolia in Harrisburg, the time has come for these remaining residents to move on.

Homeowner Ronald Cook said "I'd rather stay, but I can't, so it's good news. I'm going to to say it's good news."

Soon, all 52 homes on this block will have a new owner, the city of Harrisburg.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said "seven homes are currently being closed on today. The rest are being scheduled between now and the end of the year. The city will eventually own all of the homes on this block."

The city has a plan on what the future holds for the neighborhood after everyone moves away.

"We're going to demolish the properties and turn this into a green space. Part of the requirement from FEMA for the funding is that we will not be able to build on this space ever again," Papenfuse said.

"Well, at least the kids have somewhere to play at now. That's one good thing about it," Cook said.

Some homeowners and renters said there are some things they're not happy with.

"They need to talk with us quicker, inform us more on what's going on," Cook said.

"There was an awful lot of documentation that as you know, has to go into closing on these homes, research, all the relocation assistance and efforts. So, that's why it's taken so long," Papenfuse said.

Soon, homeowners will be paid for their properties--most estimated to be in the 50 thousand dollar range --thanks to a nearly five million dollar grant from FEMA, PEMA, HUD, and Dauphin County.

"Owners may have liens, or obligations on the homes that have to be paid out if the settlement, so the amount of checks that people are getting will differ, but in some cases, it's a significantly large check," Papenfuse said.

For Ronald Cook who has called South 14th Street home for 18 years, there's only one thing he can do to figure out his next move.

"Now if I don't sell it, what happens then? If I say no, I don't want to sign the paper, what will happen then? So I don't know, I'm just going to take it day by day," Cook said.

The city will begin inspecting and boarding up homes today, with the goal of having everyone moved out by the end of the year.