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City gets funds to demolish blighted homes

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Columbus has received $760,000 from the state to help the city eliminate blighted and abandoned homes.

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann announced that Columbus and seven other local entities had received a combined $6.5 million in the fourth of six rounds of awards given through the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program.

The program seeks to help prevent avoidable foreclosures by eliminating blighted and abandoned homes and to help stabilize property values.

Mayor Kristen Brown said winning a small portion of that funding will allow the city to purchase and tear down about three dozen dilapidated properties.

Some of those properties may be homes already on the city’s demolition target list, for which $200,000 has been appropriated to demolish unsafe structures.

The state-funded program, Brown said, has advantages and limitations.

The city can target houses with this funding that it cannot address with the process it has used to add more than 20 buildings to its demolition list. While the properties must be residential, they do not have to be considered unsafe or unfit for human occupancy, the mayor said.

But because the program is voluntary, however, the owner must be willing to sell the property to the city.

It’s not unusual for a federal program to come with some strings, however, and the city is happy to have received the funds, Brown said.

“This funding gives us an even greater opportunity to fight the blight and increase our efforts to make all Columbus neighborhoods safe, attractive and proud,” she said in a media release.

It requires a 10 percent local match, or $76,000 in city funds.

The grant application required the city to provide extensive amounts of information, said Carl Malysz, the city’s community development director.

State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, thanked city officials for their efforts in seeking the funding.

“Columbus will surely benefit from your hard work,” Smith said in a statement. “Blighted and vacant homes can be a serious issue for homeowners, neighborhoods and communities. I look forward to seeing the positive impact of the revitalization and redevelopment efforts made possible by this award.”

Ellspermann said every community will see a similar result.

“Whether communities have identified and received funding for just one house or hundreds of blighted properties, this program will provide an immediate and lasting impact on cities and towns throughout Indiana,” she said.

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