Some of the first new homes in years have been built in the struggling central county unincorporated area but months after completion, many of them are vacant and boarded up. County officials say they're boarded for security reasons.

A brand-new home the county built in the struggling unincorporated area stands vacant and boarded, a portable toilet in the swale, and beer cans littering the lawn.

The $1.8 million investment was expected to improve property values in a depressed zone in the unincorporated central Broward area. But none of the 16 new single-family homes are occupied, and about half of them are boarded up for protection, like the one that stands on the corner of Northwest 28th Avenue and Northwest 11th Court, in the unincorporated Roosevelt Park community a bit north of Sunrise Boulevard.

"Owner beware,'' activist Eligha Lewis said of the boarded homes. "It doesn't look safe, when you board something up.''

Lewis lives in Roosevelt Gardens and leads the homeowners association there. He's grown so frustrated with the community's unmet needs, he has little positive to say about the new homes. The buyers the county keeps promising haven't materialized.


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"Talk is cheap,'' said Lewis, 51, who also sits on the county's advisory board for the area.

All of the homes will be occupied soon, county officials said. The county built them — and is building five more — using federal funds left over after Hurricane Wilma's powerful hit in 2005.

There may have been a little more red tape than a typical buyer would go through, conceded Broward's director of housing finance and community development, Ralph Stone, but 14 of the 16 homes have buyers lined up, he said.

Inside a three-bedroom, two-bath home on Northwest Ninth Street, Stone stood in the kitchen, behind granite countertops and wood cabinets.

He said one of the two developers of the homes chose to board the windows to deter vandals. But new owners will start closing in the coming weeks, he said.

County commissioners voted two years ago to pay $184,000 for each house on county-owned lots. They will be sold for $140,000 to $150,000 to people earning 20 percent less than the median income here, which is $61,800 for a family of four. In addition, the county will heavily subsidize the purchase, offering some buyers $60,000 to $70,000 in assistance.

Though two buyers fell through, Stone said he has more applicants "in the pipeline.''

"They know they're getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' he said.

When the homes are inhabited, he said they will stabilize the neighborhood, affecting their surroundings by what he terms the "factor of eight:'' Each house impacts the homes on either side, the three homes in front, and the three homes in back.

"It creates optimism, in my experience,'' he said.

bwallman@tribune.com or 954-356-4541