Tag Archives: Lake County Treasurer

Forgotten Neighborhoods . . .

30 Oct

by Ken Davidson

 

The Topic was to be abandoned homes and what to do about them, but when the question and answer session began,  one term was used repeatedly: forgotten neighborhoods.   Several Gary residents, from nearly all sections of the City, got up and referred to their area as forgotten.  The descriptions that followed detailed a complete breakdown in the provision of city services.

One resident stated she was a lifelong Gary resident and had no desire to move.  She stated she had bought several other properties near her Ralston Avenue home because they were abandoned and she just wanted to maintain them.  “I don’t know how much more I can do” she stated with frustration after describing sidewalks that children could not walk down because of overgrown weeds.

The problems were echoed by residents from Tarrytown, Glen Park, West Side, Aetna, Small Farms, Black Oak and Horace Mann.  A Glen Park woman described how nice her neighborhood once was.  She described a block of abandoned homes and overgrown vacant lots.

But there was no buck stopping anywhere near Earline Rogers or Karen Freeman-Wilson.  The politicians pointed fingers everywhere but at themselves.  Earline Rogers said only two sentences;  in one she referred to Indianapolis as the “Hoosier Holyland.”  Mayor Freeman-Wilson pointed to the foreclosure crisis, out-of-state landlords,  and general economic conditions as root causes of the problems in Gary.  Although selective code enforcement was cited as a tool to be utilized to gain title to the abandoned homes which are not owned by the City, no one  was willing to address the numerous complaints of lack of basic city services including code enforcement and police protection.  The Mayor did state that they know where all of the abandoned homes are located.

To his credit, Lake County Treasurer John Petalas was the only County official to show at the meeting.  The County Treasurer and Auditor’s office have as much to do with the abandoned housing crisis in Gary as anyone else.  That folks, is the teaser for the next article.

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IHCDA Outlines $60M Plan to Demolish Abandoned Houses

28 Oct

by Ken Davidson

 

Karen Freeman-Wilson

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson addresses a crowd at IHCDA informational session

Representatives of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency tonight announced a plan to divert $60M from the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish abandoned homes throughout the state.  Under the plan, Indianapolis and Lake County would share in approximately $16M in federal funds.  The packed house at the Gary YWCA was led by State Senators Earline Rogers and Jim Merritt, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and IHCDA representatives.

IHCDA Coordinator Ryanna Binder presented a matrix to be used by local governments to request funds under the program.  Criteria such as habitability, number of police calls and potential uses for the vacant land would all be weighted and utilized to determine which houses are scheduled for demolition.

Lake County Treasurer John Petalas was present and stated that there are more than 10,000 vacant or abandoned homes in Gary which are in need of demolition.  This statistic may be flawed, however, as it apparently comes from a statistic prepared by the County which includes vacant lots.  Mayor Freeman-Wilson has stated it would cost approximately $6,600 per home for demolition.  The program would allow up to $15,000 for acquisition and demolition of properties.  Under the formula, Gary could demolish approximately 300 homes if the funds are distributed based on population.   Mayor Thomas McDermott, the Chair of the Lake County Democratic Party, has suggested the State provide $65M to Gary to demolish abandoned homes.

Officials stated the Federal Government would still have to approve the use of funds.  Submissions for demolition could begin as early as January if all approvals are obtained.  There were no representatives from other cities or towns in Lake County at the meeting although they would be eligible to vie for the funds.

During question and answer sessions, the comments primarily centered on city enforcement of codes and maintenance of abandoned properties as well as rights of way.