​For years, some Sumter residents lived among dilapidated buildings that had decayed at the hands of absentee landlords, heirs or financially strapped property owners. To alleviate the problem, city officials created a residential assistance program with the sole mission of fighting blight and cleaning up downtrodden properties.

After officials identified more than 200 vacant, boarded-up structures throughout the city, they decided to take action. Rather than let derelict dwellings define communities, invite crime and detract from safety, city officials removed them, as quickly as they could.

Local residents helped city officials identify dilapidated structures and contact homeowners. Staff met personally with residents to help contact owners, a component of the program city officials feel is vital to its success. Codes enforcement officers, property owners, neighborhood association representatives and local contractors worked together to clear the sites. A Community Development Block Grant helps fund the Residential Development Assistance Program.

The program has literally lifted up some residential areas and assisted struggling homeowners. The removal of just one boarded-up or burned down structure has given entire neighborhoods a renewed sense of pride.

Since the program began a decade ago, Sumter has demolished an average of 32 dwellings each year. With blight cleared, the neighborhoods have become healthier and safer for all residents. City leaders believe so strongly in the program's ability to bolster quality of life, they have vowed to find alternative funding should the current funding dissolve.

Contact Deron McCormick at or 803.436.2570.