In the North Minneapolis Folwell neighborhood, Cheryl Flaga is surrounded by homes without owners.
"I think there's three on this side," she said, pointing to the west. "There's one, two on that (east) side."
And the problems that come from those vacancies are spreading beyond the families whose homes were lost.
"Number one, it has brought the price of our house down, because of all the empty houses here," she said. She's also concerned about drugs and prostitution.
"Just … all the dangers," Flaga sighed.
The city of Minneapolis says problems like that are proof a home doesn't have to be in foreclosure for a homeowner to be affected directly by the foreclosure crisis, and Wednesday, the city filed a lawsuit that blames one company, TJ Waconia, for many of the problems neighborhoods are now facing.
"We are absolutely going to go after the damages, because there have been huge costs to the city on this," Mayor R.T. Rybak said.
Minneapolis joined three Northside neighborhoods in the lawsuit: Folwell, McKinley and Webber-Camden. The suit names TJ Waconia, based in Roseville, and its principals, Thomas Balko, of Rogers, and Jonathan Helgason, of Chisago City.
TJ Waconia also is being investigated for mortgage fraud by the FBI. KARE11 was unable to reach Balko and Helgason for comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit sayd TJ Waconia bought and flipped 140 homes, used fraudulent appraisals to sell the homes for more than they were worth, turned the homes into rental properties, then collected rent and stopped paying the mortgages.
The lawsuit says 108 of the Waconia homes are now vacant, and 86 are in foreclosure.
"We had to cut the grass, we had to remove neglected garbage, we had to increase the policing of those properties with problem tenants that were not screened," said Ward 5 city council member Don Samuels.
The city says it can't put an exact dollar amount on the damage done. It hopes to take control of the vacant properties.
The fear is, before long, the crisis won't just be measured by empty homes - it will be measured by empty blocks.
"It's a huge impact," Cheryl Flaga said. "Huge."
(Copyright 2008 by KARE11. All Rights Reserved.)