Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- A new ordinance is now in effect to help Orleans Parish residents fight blight and overgrown lots.

The city can now take action sooner to clean up privately owned properties that are littered with trash and overrun by grass.

The best part is, the cleanup will all be done on the owner's dime.

For Harry Sims and his neighbors, blighted properties are a constant concern. On both sides of his home sit two vacant lots. He cuts the grass regularly to keep his family and neighborhood safe.

'I don't go tell the city that I am cutting it and try to get paid off it, I just do it because it needs to be done on the block,' said Lower Ninth Ward resident Harry Sims.

Now, the city has a new plan to fight blight so Sims does not have to do it alone.

The City Council added what is called the 'Lot Maintenance Program' to an existing ordinance so the city can cut the grass and clean up privately-owned properties, but unlike before, the city will no longer have to foot the bill.

'The city is taking charge,' said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. 'The city is being very aggressive as residents have encouraged us to be.'

With the new ordinance, a property owner will only have seven days to clean up their property. If they do not comply, the city will do it for them and then add the clean-up charges to the owner's property tax bill.

'We are hoping for compliance, but if it doesn't happen the city will move forward with cutting the lawn and putting the lien on the property,' said Cantrell.

Cantrell said this will allow the city to speed up the process and take swift action.

Neighbors like Sims like the idea.

'They [owners] are going to have to sell it or owe the city, and the city is going to sell it to somebody that can really use it,' said Sims. 'It's good, it's good.'

Cantrell said the council is working on a way to allow residents to buy blighted properties without having to be responsible for any unpaid property taxes or fees.

'We are actually working on another blight strategy that would allow a homeowner to take control of an adjacent lot if they have been maintaining it for over a year,' said Cantrell.

The new ordinance took effect this month. The City Council passed the new ordinance on Feb. 20, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed it into law within just 10 days.

If there are any privately owned blighted properties on your street, city officials urge you to report the violations by calling 311.

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