LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Abandoned houses are magnets for vandalism and drug abuse, but Metro Louisville is experimenting with a new program designed to cut down on crime and improve the appearance of some vacant properties.

It is called "clear boarding." The city is choosing several vacant homes boarded up with plywood over the windows and replacing the plywood with clear, acrylic windows.

Tye Stoner's mother lives on a street in the Portland neighborhood littered with abandoned homes. He said it's not a safe place, especially for the elderly.

"Sometimes you got to run the folks off that hang out, do their drugs, sleep on the front porch, in the house," he said.

That is why Stoner is interested in what is happening to the vacant house next door, which he said has been empty for at least 15 years. It is one of the first houses to be part of the clear boarding program.

Metro Council member Barbara Shanklin is spearheading the program.

"It costs a little bit more, but it doesn't bend, you can't break in it, or anything like that," she said.

Shanklin believes using the tough acrylic material instead of plywood will cut down on theft and other crimes, as well as improve the appearance.

"It cuts down on making the neighborhood look bad," she said. "You don't even know it's a boarded-up house."

Not all of Louisville's more than 5,000 abandoned homes will be clear-boarded. They are mostly in neighborhoods that may have one or two vacant properties.

"If you put clear boarding on that house, that brings the neighborhood back," said Shanklin.

Stoner said he likes the idea, but admits he is a bit skeptical.

"Taking the plywood down gives it a better look, But it's no safer," he said.

Shanklin said the city will also continue its effort to possess and demolish vacant properties in the worst-hit areas. But, she said, for some neighborhoods, clear-boarding will make a difference.

"Let's try it and see what happens," Shanklin said.

Metro Council has set aside $550,000 for the clear-boarding project. Shanklin does not know how far that money will go, but said it is a small step in the effort to solve a big problem.

Shanklin chairs the council's Community Affairs and Housing committee, and plans to take an upcoming meeting on the road to update the public on the city's vacant and abandoned properties program. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the Shawnee Golf Course.

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