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Money set for home fixes


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Leftover federal disaster money from the 2008 flooding in Columbus will be used to renovate 12 to 16 owner-occupied homes near Ninth Street Park in the Lincoln-Central neighborhood.

Columbus received $262,500 from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority through leftover Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funding, Community Development Director Carl Malysz said.

The money was designated for counties declared as disaster areas after the 2008 flood, he said. The city must match 10 percent of the grant, $26,250, from the city’s 2013 Community Development Block Grant program.

The number of homes selected in the neighborhoods will depend on the scale and cost of individual projects.

The Ninth Street Park area is bordered by 10th and 11th streets to the north, Sixth Street to the south, Central Avenue to the east and California Street to the west.

Homeowners in the Ninth Street Park area will receive first priority, homeowners in the greater Lincoln-Central neighborhood have the second priority and homeowners across the rest of the city receive third priority, Malysz said. Eligibility also is determined by income and how the projects address health and safety.

Jackie Combest, who has lived at 1219 Eighth St. since 1982 and in the Ninth Street Park area since 1964, said he submitted an application in hopes of getting much-needed work done to his house.

“My foundation’s got crumbles, and they’re going to remortar those,” he said. “They’re going to remortar the chimney. It has loose bricks.”

Combest said he’s also hoping to have repairs to his garage roof, the home’s siding and some of the windows.

Malysz said the Columbus Administrative Resource Association, which will conduct the applicant property inspections for the city, will start inspections of applicants’ property soon.

He said ARA will solicit estimates from qualified contractors that could take about 30 to 60 days for bids.

“I’m hopeful that by October, we actually start to get some work under construction,” he said.

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said she’s excited about the project because the money will benefit an area that has been identified as struggling for some time.

Brown said some of those efforts included making sidewalk improvements, revamping the Ninth Street Park area, initiating and sustaining aggressive community policing, neighborhood cleanups and pursuing code enforcement.

The work completed with the help of the grant is part of the Ninth Street Park Neighborhood Revitalization Plan adopted by city council on Sept. 3, 2013.

“This is the first time the city has done anything like this in terms of these targeted areas for neighborhood revitalization,” she said.

All of the work is also a part of the overall plan outlined in Advance Columbus, the citywide strategic plan put in place to generate renewal in different areas of the city.

Some homeowners from the Ninth Street Park area applied for assistance during informational meetings this year at the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, Malysz said.

They would have priority on the applicant list, but a lengthy qualification process and approval will have to take place first.

The city does have a deadline and the state housing authority expects the money to be awarded and renovation projects completed by 2015.

Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator with the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, said many of the homes in the area were built before the 1940s and need repairs. Some have floors that are caving in or roofs with gaping holes, she said.

The Lincoln-Central Neighborhood has about 2,000 homes with about 5,000 residents, Doup said. Many of the homes are rentals now but were owner-occupied about 20 years ago, she said.

Malysz said about 80 percent of the homes in the Ninth Street Park area are renter-occupied.

He said technically the city could create a program that would benefit renter-occupied properties in a similar way that the owner-occupied program does, but that most of the remediation should be the responsibility of the landlord.

It’s mostly up to the landlord to do any work to keep the property in a condition that doesn’t warrant city code enforcement, Malysz said.

“I think that there’s going to have to be an incredibly special case made if at some point in the future the city decided to come up with programs it would fund dealing with landlords,” he said. “Those property owners ought to maintain the asset that they’re leasing to citizens.”

Doup said although the grant is only for owner-occupied properties, she is hopeful it will spark a change in the area that will have a ripple effect on neighboring properties.

“We have always been concerned about infrastructure issues,” she said. “But the past three years have been a concerted effort to find a larger grant to help in a more widespread way.

“In the neighborhood’s existence, we have never seen a grant of this magnitude with this particular focus, so it’s very exciting,” she said.

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