10 Elkhart Homes to Be Demolished Through Blight Program

A blight-elimination program started in 2014 has only spent around $500,000 of the $2.7 million awarded by the state to clean up deteriorating and unoccupied homes throughout Elkhart County, Ind.

The Elkhart County Commissioners on Monday awarded bids to two demolition companies, Pelley Excavating and Jackson Services, to tear down another ten homes at a price of just over $85,000. That brings the total number of homes set to be demolished through the county's Blight Elimination Program to 31, according to Elkhart County Neighborhood Stabilization Director Kris Krueger.

When those homes — most in Elkhart — might be demolished is still up in the air as the county works with the state to file proper paperwork.

"There are a lot of details that need to be followed in order to demolish homes under the state program," said Krueger. "You have to acquire the property through the proper channels, you have to have all utilities discontinued, which can take some time, and then contractors might run into delays. It can take a matter of months to demolish a home or much longer."

The $2.7 million in state funds should be enough to raze around 110 homes, but finding the right homes to tear down has proved to be more difficult then initially anticipated. Krueger said you have to have a willing seller and a clean title.

"We have found that the easiest way is to take homes that were not sold at tax sales, if the city already owns the home or lot that is also a quick way to get things done," she said.

Most of the homes demolished or set to be demolished through the program have been in Elkhart, with very few in the unincorporated parts of the county or Goshen. The county's program initially was slated to only have two years to operate, the program currently ends in 2017, but Krueger said the county is working to get an extension.

What happens if the extension is denied? Krueger said the remaining money would be withdrawn from the county and the program would cease.

The Blight Elimination Program serves the community in a number of ways, like demolishing eyesores and lifting a neighborhood's spirit, among other things.

"It really revives an area since dilapidated properties can create havoc on neighboring home values and lower the amount of property tax revenue for the city," she said. "They also create a negative perception of the neighborhood as a whole and can even create criminal behavior and safety issues."

The federal Hardest Hit Fund, which provides money for the Blight Elimination Program, is not the only program local municipalities are using to demolish blighted homes. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has administered millions to communities and counties all over Indiana.

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