Indiana leaders host forums to rid neighborhoods of problem properties

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A group of Indiana state leaders are eying $75 million in federal funding that could be used to help communities across the state get rid of blighted and abandoned properties. As part of the application process, they will hold a series of public forums to help develop a plan that will need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The available funding is a portion of $221 million that was awarded to Indiana under the Hardest Hit Fund created in the wake of the downturn in the housing market. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were identified as part of the national program.

“They have a lot of back taxes owed on them, and no one is responsible for them,” said Pat Paff, a homeowner on the east side of Indianapolis who said her neighborhood is dotted with abandoned properties.

It is a problem that she and others claim invites crimes and hurts property values.

“They just stand there. They get broken into, and they get stripped down to nothing,” said Renee Lynch, President of the Brookside Neighborhood Association.

Paff and Lynch said they would like to see the homes redeveloped, but they quickly get stripped down and even set on fire leaving few alternatives.

“Thirty percent of all our foreclosed homes are vacant and abandoned now, and that’s one of the highest in the entire country,” said State Representative Justin Moed, (D) Indianapolis.

RealtyTrac and 24/7 Wall Street are reporting that roughly 30 percent of Indiana’s foreclosed homes are abandoned. This means in excess of 5,000 blighted and abandoned homes are negatively impacting Indiana homeowners and neighborhoods.

It is a reputation that a bi-partisan group of Indiana leaders are not happy with; The list includes State Senator Jim Merritt, (R- Indianapolis) and Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann as well as Representative Moed.

Moed said plenty of homes in the Indianapolis area have been on the city’s demolition list for years because it is an expensive fix. “It’s very expensive to tear down a house. It can cost anywhere up to $15,000 or $20,000 if there is asbestos or lead paint.”

The proposed initiative that FOX59 has been told would also address the newly vacant lots would create a partnership between local communities and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Possible options for the land include green spaces like community gardens or pocket parks as well as redevelopment.

“I know people who are sitting beside properties on the demolition list who are willing to take on that lot, and take responsibility for it,” said Lynch.

The first public forum was held Wednesday inside the Indiana War Memorial in Downtown Indianapolis. Details are still being ironed out for the remaining public forums.

If you are unable to attend the public hearings, comments can be submitted to feedback@ihcda.in.gov by December 2, 2013.

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