Neighbors hope 'wall of shame' will help improve abandoned homes

AUBURN, Wash. -- For the past four years the home at 129 11th Street SE has been steadily slipping into disrepair.

The bank took possession of the home when the owners defaulted on their loan. Neighbor Terri Potter says the home has been nothing but trouble ever since.

"They're not maintaining it," she said of the bank. "It's got a broken, boarded-up window and now we've got people that are breaking into it and living in it, parking stolen cars behind it. Rummaging through the neighbors and stealing things."

Potter and her neighbors put locks on the basement and garage doors in an attempt to keep squatters out of the home, but the problems persist.

Paulette Boonprom said residents in the area recently called 911 when a strange car showed up outside the garage at the vacant house.

"There were police officers out here and they ran the (vehicle identification number) and it was a stolen car out of Fife," she said. "And there was wood piles that they were going to put into the house to start a fire in the fireplace."

The fireplace in the home has a gas insert, and burning wood could have touched off an explosion.

Auburn focused on the forclosure problem nine months ago, creating a website it calls the wall of shame.

The site lists 30 problem properties, and the city is working with neighbors to force banks to make changes when it can.

Wells Fargo holds the mortgage to the home that's causing so much grief for Potter and her neighbors.

"I'd like to see this house cleaned up so that it can be sold and people living in it," she said.

While Auburn puts pressure on the mortgage holders, other cities such as Tacoma are using federal grants to clean up abandoned homes or help people who are facing foreclosure.

Right now there is $44 million being distributed for those efforts across the state.