New demolition funding program mandates replacement constuction

INDIANAPOLIS - City officials hope a new program called Blight Elimination Program will help keep communities clear of eyesores and eliminate blight from neighborhoods.

The program is a fund that will help investors and neighborhood organizations demolish unsafe and unstable residential structures, but the program comes with one major string attached.

While the Blight Elimination Program has $75 million available for use around the state, Marion and Lake counties comprise Funding Division 1, with an allocation of more than $16 million.

In one neighborhood on the city’s east side, there is a home that has far surpassed the label of an eyesore, residents said. There is a sign out front reads, "If this home was in Carmel, it would have been demolished."

"It's been empty for a long time. And they're supposed to tear it down. I wish they'd hurry, make the neighborhood look better," area resident Amanda Barton said.

The east side is full of homes that need demolition, but they're stuck on the tax rolls, or in foreclosure or the owners have long since passed away.

While the federal government has established foreclosure-prevention programs focused on homeowner assistance, Indiana's Hardest Hit Fund program takes a two-tiered foreclosure-prevention approach that not only provides homeowner assistance, but also uses Blight Elimination Program funds to prevent foreclosures by stabilizing property values through demolition.

"Our tax base, property that's got new construction, it generates a higher level of income than a green space or side lot does," Deputy Director Jeff Roeder with the Department of Metropolitan Development said.

In the near-east side St. Clair Place neighborhood, the community development corporation has renovated and built 58 homes, many of them on vacant lots. And while money to demolish blighted properties sounds good, it also sounds expensive.

"Even if your intention is to develop three to four years down the road, that's still a building cost of $800 to $1,000. And if you've got 50 properties, most organizations don't have that kind of money," John Franklin Hay, executive director of Indy-east Asset Development, said.

The demolition money holds great promise for bringing back blighted neighborhoods, but only if the investors have the vision of what they will put back in its place.

The Department of Metropolitan Development is hosting two public meetings next week on how investors and neighborhoods can access the demolitions.

Meeting times and locations:

Tuesday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Thatcher Park Family Center, 4649 West Vermont St.

Thursday, March 20 at 5:30 p.m.
Brookside Park Family Center, 3500 Brookside Parkway South Dr.

Follow Jack Rinehart on Twitter: @jackrinehart6

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