More than $75 million is up for grabs, $16 million of which will be used in Marion and Lake Counties, to help tackle the blighted, vacant and abandoned housing issue in Indiana.
The money has been made available by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as part of the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program.
“Whether you’re talking to a developer, funding sources or neighborhood resident, they can always pick out the ones that there’s been a fire, but nothing happened,” said Phil Votaw, executive director of the Near West Side Community Development Corporation.
Votaw said the abandoned eyesores are impacting projects his CDC is working on, but demolition costs are typically too steep.
The federal funding could soon be accessible to Votaw through Indianapolis city officials. The application process has just begun for Marion County.
The $75 million is part of a $221 million package that was awarded to Indiana. The rest of the money is helping homeowners with mortgage payments.
“You demolish to have regrowth so there has to be a plan in this program as to what is going to happen to this property next. You can’t just have a field. There are a lot of communities that will have gardens and playgrounds,” said Senator Jim Merritt, (R) Indianapolis.
Senator Merritt was joined by other program supporters at a Monday press conference including Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, Sen. Earline Rogers, Rep. Justin Moed, and Rep. Alan Morrison among others.
RealtyTrac and 24/7 Wall Street report that nearly 30 percent of Indiana’s foreclosed homes are abandoned. That means that due to foreclosure alone, 5,000 blighted and abandoned homes could be negatively impacting neighborhoods by reducing property values among other potential effects.
That means Indiana has the highest percentage of abandoned foreclosed homes in the country.
“Repeated police and fire runs, boarding, maintenance, mowing and the demolition itself, if the city has to pay for it, and those are taxpayer monies that could go to other endeavors,” said Rayanna Binder, Program Director for the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program, about the importance of the money.
Approximately 4,000 homes that they deem as beyond repair will be demolished through the program. Advocates claim it could help improve public safety, stabilize property values, and tackle the foreclosure problem.
“You will go from something that is not usable now, and it’s an eyesore, to something that is usable that will be another neighbor on the street and return the property to the tax roll,” said Votaw.
Indianapolis city leaders have been working with community and neighborhood groups to identify the properties. The lists will be handed over to program leaders who will award the funding.