EDITORIAL: Use federal funds to raze derelict buildings

2013-12-18T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Use federal funds to raze derelict buildings nwitimes.com
December 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann discussed abandoned housing during her visit to Northwest Indiana last week. It's a statewide problem, even in rural areas, but it's acute in cities such as East Chicago and Gary.

In Gary and Indianapolis, it's estimated 30 percent of homes are unoccupied.

In East Chicago, Ellspermann met with Mayor Anthony Copeland, who spoke of revitalization plans that include demolishing blighted properties the city acquired through tax sales.

Some homes can be rehabbed and put back to use, through efforts such as Gary's dollar homes program.

But many are beyond repair. These are homes that drive down property values and economic development prospects because they're eyesores.

They're also dangerous because they're unsafe to enter, which makes them even more attractive to children looking for places to explore. These derelict buildings also attract criminals looking for places to prey on their victims.

Ellspermann said on the nwi.com Political Roundtable program last week the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority is working with the U.S. Treasury Department to free up as much as $75 million, already committed to Indiana, to address blight.

"Our hope is to really take out the worst of the worst in the communities," she said.

Ellspermann recently completed a tour of each of Indiana's 92 counties, and she got an earful about this problem.

"Every community we went to, large and small, we heard the problem of blight in our communities," she said on that talk show.

"We think this can make a big difference in stabilizing neighborhoods and in bringing up the assessed value of the homes we have," she said.

Michigan has already used Treasury funding for this purpose, and Ohio is looking to do the same thing.

The money would to be apportioned by population, so Lake County would be one of the first priorities.

The Treasury Department should free up these unused "hardest hit" funds, originally intended to prevent foreclosures, to speed up demolition of abandoned homes. And begin in urban areas, where the need is greatest.

Destroying these derelict buildings will create hope and opportunities in those cities as well as improve safety.

The cities don't have the funds to tackle this job on their own. Federal funds, distributed by the state, are needed to get the job done.

Knock down these buildings to improve safety, aesthetics, property values and economic development prospects.

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