Millions set aside to tear down abandoned homes, only 13 gone so far

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INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 27, 2015) – In neighborhoods all across Indiana, residents will find thousands of abandoned homes.

In fact the problem is so bad, the state distributed millions of federal dollars to tear them down. But more than a year after the program launched, many of the homes are still standing.

The latest public celebration happened Monday in Richmond.

“This is an awesome day for the citizens of our community,” the common council president said.

About $3.2 million allocated to the city to demolish as many as 160 abandoned homes. Monday’s demolition was the city’s seventh.

“You hear the neighbors call and say hey when’s that house gonna come down?” Sarah Mitchell said, city planner for Richmond. “It’s been an eyesore for years and years. When are you actually going to see it come down?”

Statewide $75 million was distributed to dozens of communities from Richmond to Anderson to Indianapolis.

“I think we’d all like to see them down sooner rather than later,” Katy Brett said, executive director of Renew Indianapolis, which signed a contract with the city this past summer to manage a majority of the project.

In Indianapolis, state officials said just 13 homes have been torn down out of a projected 170. As the days roll by, deadlines loom to use the money before it expires.

“I think that’s always a concern with federal funds that have a targeted timeline,” Brett said.

Now, Brett said nearly 30 homes in Indianapolis are projected for demolition this fall and the rest hopefully by the end of next year.

State officials said Indianapolis’ story is mirrored in other communities, slowed by thousands of pages of federal requirements.

“For good reason,” Brett said. “We want to make sure tax dollars are being used well.”

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority is overseeing the federal dollars.

“We certainly watch closely,” Mark Neyland said, the agency’s director of asset preservation. “I wouldn’t call it concern, but we do monitor and we do everything we can to help the communities.”

Neyland said for its part, the state is standing back but is committed to holding communities responsible for results.

“We’re confident Indianapolis is going to begin moving,” he said.

In Richmond, city leaders expect a domino effect, the result of months of work coming to public fruition.

“It’s a big relief,” Mitchell said. “It really is. It’s a year in the making. And it’s all for five to ten minutes of relief.”