JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

While the economy is improving, one legacy of the recession continues to plague Jacksonville: abandoned homes.

One city councilman said there are over 12,000 abandoned buildings in the city that are being ignored, and he has a plan to turn the buildings from a problem to an asset.

Councilman Bill Gulliford said it appears the city is no longer even keeping track of abandoned properties. So he has called a special council meeting Monday morning to ask why and what can be done to not only know the number of these homes and businesses, but reduce it.

"We invited anybody and everybody who has an interest in housing in the community, abandoned properties, whatever," Gulliford said. "There is an organization I've been meeting with on a regular basis for about four months called Hope Now, out of D.C. They are coming to lend their expertise to the issue."
 
Gulliford said the hope is to come up with a plan that would allow these houses to be rented or sold and put to use.

Steve Hoolihan lives in a Lakewood neighborhood where there are at least five abandoned properties. One is just a few doors from his home.

"It does invite  the criminal element, in that (they) might take advantage of an empty house," Hoolihan said. "And the way prices of copper and metals are, they will come in and just strip the house. That is when the property values do drop."

Gulliford hopes that a community-based organization -- perhaps a nonprofit -- could be the answer.

"That would be the conduit, a transfer point for these abandoned properties, to get them back on the tax roll and get people in them," Gulliford said.

"I hate to have our tax dollars involved, but then again, if they can revitalized the neighborhood and turn a profit, I don't really care who turns the profit," Hoolihan said.

Gulliford has set the meeting for 9 a.m. Monday at City Hall.