Blight Elimination Program: Update

I wish to offer a retraction to the post that I made yesterday about the Hardest Hit Blight Elimination Program.  Last night, I read this article and its accompanying video, and I realized that my post was made in haste.  That post is now locked down, and comments instead are welcome on this post.

I will instead write a post about a different topic later today.  I will do my best to avoid writing such retractions in the future.  Thank you for reading Urban Indy.

Comments 14

  • Not necessarily related to the retracted post, but something to keep an eye on is the $1 lots for sale in Chicago.

  • Not sure what you’re retracting. The one good thing about this particular batch of demolition is that redevelopment plans are being required. I can get behind that if the buildings aren’t salvageable. But the reality is that if the city would put even a tiny percentage of the amount they will spend — over $6 million — to demolish this 160 or so buildings into rehabilitation or homesteading, we’d make a much bigger positive impact.

    • It’s a Federally-funded program, so it isn’t really the city’s money in this case.

      These houses have unfortunately become magnets for crime. I like the idea of removing the worst of the worst and redeveloping the lots with new construction, as long as there is also a program to restore the ones that can be saved. So, let’s work on that, now that the worst have been identified.

      • Even after your comment, I agree with Connie, what exactly are you retracting? Most redevelopment efforts in Indianapolis use federal funds (and this has been the case for decades). Also, the federal program in question does not require that homes be torn down, it simply requires that the funds be used to stabilize neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosed and abandoned homes.

        Also, most redevelopment programs require (and have always required) some “plan of reuse, but that does not mean that such reuse will happen anytime soon–many sites for planned redevelopment sit vacant for a long time.

        I am not against tearing down all homes either, and I agree that some homes are beyond repair. However, I do not think you posted anything in your prior post that would warrant a retraction.

        • Actually, this specific state-run program is exclusively funding demolition. They do favor applications with “creative deconstruction” plans, but make no mistake: blight elimination in this case equals demolition.

          • Chris, yes, I understand the state is choosing to use the federal funds for a demolition program. But, the federal program the funds come from does not require the money be spent to demolish homes. Indiana is making the choice to use a small portion of the federal funds it was awarded to give to cities for demolition purposes. I think it is valid to question whether or not this is the best use of these federal funds.

        • I’m retracting my criticism of the program without knowing much about it. And I’ll do my best to avoid doing so in the future.

          In general, I’ll probably just stick with talking about the base topics for Urban Indy, and I’ll let others debate issues such as this one. It’s an important issue, for sure, but it’s one that I would need to do a lot more learning about to feel comfortable enough to make a post.

  • just one more point, we applied for these federal funds. It is a state-wide initiative and each municipality had to ask for the monies to go to their city. I do like that redevelopment is part of the deal and maybe these are the “worst of the worst,” I don’t know because I haven’t looked at all of them. But I do know the city said that a few years back when it knocked down 2,000 and many of those were structurally sound and have since been purchased because people banded together to get them pulled off the list, or rather pushed to the back and then the city ran out of money. Are this current batch worse? I don’t know. More importantly are there better ways to spend $6 million dollars to make our city better. Absolutely yes. That’s my view and holding up a mirror to them certainly doesn’t hurt anyone.

    • Those are all fair points, I think.

    • What do you think about this?. It seems to hit many of the points you are talking about. I almost made a post about this website when I first learned about it.

    • The question wasn’t ever “What can we use $6 million for to make Indy better”. These funds have very specific strings attached at the Federal and State levels, as do most Federal and State housing grant programs. The Blight Elimination Fund can ONLY be used for demolition of blighted structures.

      So the question was “Does Indy want a share of the $16 million in Federal funds set aside by State government to fund demolitions in Marion and Lake Counties?” Both Indianapolis and Lawrence elected to pursue the funds; the sad fact is that there is still “new” blight (abandonment and tax delinquency) happening despite all the money spent on teardowns previously.

      This is happening because there just aren’t enough willing and interested buyers to absorb (buy and fix up) all the Renew Indianapolis and County Surplus properties, even if there is “opportunity on every corner”.

      And clearly, the vacant blighted/unsound houses are a drag on their neighbors’ property values…which is why the Feds allowed this money to be re-purposed from foreclosure-prevention funds to blight elimination.

      • The Blight Elimination Fund is a state fund using federal money from the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. The federal funds do NOT require the money be used for demolition. Indiana has chosen to use a portion of the federal funds it received for the Blight Elimination Fund to tear down homes. So, I think there are at least a few questions to ask: (1) Is this program the best use of a portion of the state’s award of federal funds? (2) Should Indianapolis expect these funds with the specific strings attached (that the money be used to demolish) homes? (3) If the money is accepted, are the homes tagged for demolition really “beyond repair,” or are some of them salvageable and capable of being renovated and resold? Is it possible that spending more upfront on rehabbing some of these homes may pay off better than tearing them down?

        Again, I do think some homes should be torn down, but I do think it is perfectly valid to question this program and the city’s participation in it.

        • The decision to restrict the funds to demolition was made at the state level prior to the opening of the grant process, and the program was approved by the US Treasury. So the Indiana BEF…the source of this money…is indeed tied by both State and Federal strings. This just isn’t arguable.

          What’s arguable is:

          1) Should Indianapolis and Lawrence have pursued this funding even though it is restricted to demolition? Given the large backlog of vacant, blighted, abandoned properties with demolition orders in Indianapolis, it’s hard to see how this answer is “no”.

          2) Should the state try something else? Maybe yes, but the statutory limitations on this funding stream from the Treasury Department might leave little latitude for creative re-purposing. That question comes down to an “inside baseball” debate as to how far the legislative purpose of the funding law can be stretched. It’s not necessarily subject to common-sense or “best-use” policy argument.

          This is unlike the Neighborhood Stabilization Project funds from HUD, which allowed a lot more latitude in purpose and was similar to the other HUD block grants given to cities.

  • Years ago as we began the restoration/renovation of the Old Northside Historic District, the city owned numerous vacant lots and house scattered throughout the ONS. Most were overgrown and the city had a hard time keeping up with the maintenance required. A plan was enacted that allowed the adjacent homeowner was able to obtain the lot from the city for a $500 transfer fee. Many are still landscaped side yards or have been sold for new construction (IHPC approved) but it went a long way in stabilizing the neighborhood while we were being back the area.

Leave a Reply to Chris Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *