Future Legislation Aims to Rescue Abandoned Homes and Neighborhoods

Legislators are looking to introduce a bill to help address the urban blight that is plaguing cities and communities across the Hoosier state. With an estimated 30 percent of the state’s foreclosed homes abandoned, according to the financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall Street, State Senator Jim Merritt said this issue hurts property values and can drain municipal resources.

“Local governments want property taxes coming out of that home, if you will,” he explains. “Vacancy is a poison in communities and blight is a mark against society and against the community.”

Merritt says the Hardest Hit Fund, $221 million in federal money, is available to either help financially-stressed homeowners avoid foreclosure or aid communities in tearing down abandoned and damaged properties. He plans to introduce legislation that seeks permission from the federal government to use about $75 million of that money to be distributed to communities so they can address their own blighted areas.

Merritt stresses urban blight affects urban and rural communities, from South Bend to Evansville, and it’s gotten worse with the collapse of the housing market and the Great Recession.

He adds that his legislation would help communities turn things around.

“It’s not just demolition, it’s rehabilitation as well,” he explains. “The goal is to make a house as vacant as short a time as possible either by tearing it down, or by having someone move into a vacant house and making it a home.”

Merritt says homeowners can also help to spruce up their own neighborhoods. Indiana has a Good Samaritan law that allows residents to fix minor problems on an abandoned property next door without liability.