City finalizing list of abandoned homes to be torn down with federal funds

Indianapolis Star (IN), 2014-07-07


July 07 --The city of Indianapolis soon will be rid of nearly 170 abandoned homes on properties that are slated to be developed.

Two public meetings are scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to get public feedback on the proposed list of structures Downtown and spread out across nearby neighborhoods.

The goal of the statewide program is not simply to demolish abandoned homes but to stabilize property values in Indiana communities.

A total of $6.39 million in federal funds will be used to pay for the demolitions. The money comes from the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program, which awarded $75 million to Indiana communities. The program provides a chance for local governments in all 92 Indiana counties to compete for money to eliminate blighted, vacant and abandoned homes and reduce foreclosures.

The Indianapolis meetings will give residents a chance to voice their support for demolishing properties on the list, according to the Department of Metropolitan Development . Residents with concerns also can offer reuse plans to be considered for a specific property.

John Bartholomew , a department spokesman, said the 169 properties were chosen strategically because there are plans for them to be used rather than sit vacant.

"We want the land developed," he said. "There's got to be an outcome."

The list of properties will be posted on the Department of Metropolitan Development's home page by midmorning Monday.

The meetings, open to the public, will be at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at The Hall, 202 N. Alabama St.

In February, the U.S. Treasury Department approved the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority's use of the $75 million of Hardest Hit funds. The partnership allows the authority to provide funding for the demolition and offer a variety of end uses, such as green space or redevelopment.

Mayor Greg Ballard has said the city wants to use these funds to remove "unsightly and unsalvageable abandoned homes" that pose a health and safety risk and attract crime and vandalism.

In Marion County , an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 homes are vacant, according to 2013 figures. They often become eyesores, are vandalized and attract illegal drug use.

Community development corporations, including the Near East Area Renewal, and other groups and residents have committed to restoring the properties.

Statewide, the Blight Elimination Program is set to pay 90 percent of the cost to tear down at least 4,000 of the state's more than 50,000 vacant houses. A 10 percent community match can include in-kind contributions or volunteer labor.

Previously, no state program existed to fund demolition of vacant homes in Indiana . Normally, local funds or federal community block grants pay for this work.

The funding being used for demolitions comes out of $221 million in the federal Hardest Hit Fund that Indiana started to get in 2010. That money originally was intended to subsidize mortgage payments for homeowners who were unemployed and in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

But funds for the program outpaced demand, despite the state broadening eligibility rules last year. A study last fall from the Treasury Department showed Indiana ranked last of 18 states that got Hardest Hit funds in the percentage of funds used. So state officials decided to ask the department to use some of the money for demolitions.

Call Star reporter Barb Berggoetz at (317) 444-6294. Follow her on Twitter : @barbberg.

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