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City gets $4.7 million to rid blight

Lots to be razed, redeveloped

– The city of Fort Wayne has been awarded $4.7 million in forgivable loans to demolish and redevelop abandoned homes.

The money come from the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program, a competitive grant program open to local governments in Indiana. A total of $75 million was available through several rounds of funding.

“This is great news as we continue to see unprecedented momentum in our city,” Mayor Tom Henry said. “This effort is all about stabilizing neighborhoods and increasing property values.”

The money will allow the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services and Neighborhood Code Enforcement to demolish and redevelop three times the number of vacant homes normally taken down in a year. City officials estimate about 200 vacant homes will be demolished and redeveloped with the extra money.

The other city to win money in this round of funding was South Bend, which was awarded $1.6 million.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which awards the money to local communities, estimates about 4,000 blighted or abandoned homes in Indiana will be eliminated through the program.

City officials said the properties selected for demolition will be chosen because they are vacant, in extremely poor condition, can be easily acquired and are on highly visible streets and roads.

Neighborhood associations will be asked to help determine what happens with the properties after they are taken down, officials said. Some will be turned into green space; others will be available for development of new homes or a mix of residential and commercial space. Property acquisition will begin within the next month.

“Neighborhoods across Indiana that have been struggling with the damaging effects caused by vacant and abandoned properties will soon see the benefit of these federal funds,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin said in a statement announcing the awards. “We believe this program is a critical step in preventing foreclosures by reducing blight in our communities and hope these efforts help stabilize neighborhoods for years to come.”

The Blight Elimination Program money will be drawn from the $221.7 million Hardest Hit Fund money allocated to Indiana by the federal government.

The Blight Elimination Program is a loan program that allows the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to make funding available to successful applicants. The loans will then be restructured as forgivable loans using Hardest Hit Funds.

“These awards will help eliminate blighted properties in dozens of neighborhoods,” said Mark Neyland, IHCDA director of asset preservation, who supervises Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund Program. “Local residents in those neighborhoods can look forward to seeing blighted properties replaced with green spaces and other productive end uses.”

Indiana has the highest percentage of abandoned foreclosed homes in the country, with RealtyTrac and 24/7 Wall Street reporting roughly 30 percent of Indiana’s foreclosed homes are abandoned.

Many of these properties quickly fall into a state of blight and attract undesirable or unlawful activity, thus affecting Indiana homeowners and neighborhoods by reducing property values and draining local government resources.

Hardest Hit Funds are also used to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. As of April 30, IHCDA officials said, about 3,300 homeowners have received an estimated $37.8 million in mortgage payment assistance; an additional $81.2 million has been reserved to make mortgage payments for the approved homeowners currently enrolled in the program.