Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Star Urges Caution On Abandoned Housing Initiative

The City of Indianapolis is considering a plan to buy up houses repossessed by the federal government to satisfy government loans and tax liens, work with nonprofit organizations to rehab the houses and then offer them for sale to persons of modest means. The Star's editorial writers are intrigued by the idea but concerned about the costs. The editorial says:

One of the biggest centers on the cost. To be effective, the program would need millions of dollars to refurbish hundreds of houses. Local leaders hope to raise money through grants and contributions from nonprofits. Yet, a lot of entities are competing for those limited dollars.

A second issue concerns whether the potential buyers, who likely wouldn't qualify for traditional mortgages, would receive the type of support services they would need to stay in the homes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development repossesses about 80 houses a month in the three target areas. Most foreclosures are driven by factors such as high credit card debt, personal bankruptcies and lost jobs. Those challenges won't disappear simply because the city has a new program to fix up houses. Without training for potential homeowners, especially in financial management, the cycle of foreclosures won't truly be broken.

City leaders also need to consider how the program would affect the private market. It's true that a part of Indianapolis' foreclosure epidemic has been triggered by speculators trying to make quick profits by "flipping'' houses. But others who operate legitimate businesses and take a long-term approach also are attempting to fix up rundown houses for resale. What would the city government's intrusion into the marketplace mean for them?

As for the costs of the program, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Instead of raising $25 million from the local business community to pay for a Super Bowl party four years into the future, those same businesses could do much more good for the City by putting that money towards a program to fund the initiative to combat abandoned homes. As for the Star editorial's concern about the program having a negative impact on the private market, those concerns are simply misplaced. The fact is that these abandoned homes are driving down the value of surrounding homes and breeding crime in the neighborhoods where they are. Mayor Peterson had a survey of the City done earlier in his administration and discovered an abandoned housing stock of over 8,000 homes. That number has no doubt grown in the wake of the subprime mortgage meltdown. We cannot afford to wait any longer to address this problem.


Anonymous said...

Of the 12,000 estimated abandoned houses in Indianapolis these ones owned by HUD make up less than 2%.
The plan proposed does not address what must be done with the other 98% of the blighted abandoned properties.
Indianapolis has a very serious problem with these abandoned houses yet it lacks the political will and resources to deal with it.
In time, as these ring neighborhoods rot, the city center where all the money has been dumped will have been for naught.

Anonymous said...

Great post Gary, I'm glad that this is being considered.

Anonymous said...

The fact is, the people pushing for a Super Bowl aren't doing it to shake off any perceived 'India-no-place' stigma. They are doing it because they expect to profit from their efforts through connections or deals made.

Putting their money into actually making this a better city does nothing for them, other than prhaps give them a warm feeling inside. That's not of any concern to them as it won't buy a Mercedes or a condo in Miami.

Anonymous said...

8:54 has some good points, but your figures are completely wrong.

HUD mortgages control about 30-40% of the 2007 foreclosures. That does not necessarily mean HUD controls the properties: there are myriad reasons this could be true. Not enough space here to list all the reasons.

And, 80 HUD foreclosures a month, over several years, is probably true. But last year alone there were over 2,500 in Marion County alone. In the metro area it's closer to 3,000. I realize this story is only talking about the Indy municipal boundaries, but numbers are powerful, and they should be correct.

Here's another idea: if the houses are too costly to repair, how about leveling them? A vacant lot isn't great, but it's better than an abandoned rotting house, which becomes home to rodents or homeless.

And if anyone can raise $25 million to rehab some homes, The Star, for once, has it right. Unless we educate the new homeowners properly, the boomerang will hit in about 3-5 years, and torn-up rehabbed houses will be back on the market.

Alas, some folks should rent for life. And have a more-responsible person control their domicile.

Anonymous said...

I nominate you to raise the money from private sources. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

There's another problem here, however. A large portion of these abandoned houses are in areas people simply don't want to live. People of modest means, and even the the simply poor, have moved out of the urban core. This obviously isn't a simple issue. But if the goal is to simply fill empty houses, there are better ways to do it. How about funding a revitalization of the E. 10th St. area. Getting the Rivoli operational and a couple businesses open may get a some urban hipsters priced out of Mass Ave and Chatham Arch to decamp for the Near Eastside. Like it or not it is a lot easier to fill urban areas with young and educated that it is hard working poor.

Anonymous said...

To follow on anon 8:54's comments,
there is a structure in place (Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership) to do what the Star suggests is needed, but it isn't currently scaled or funded to deal with the present tidal wave.

Theirs is a proven program, often executed in tandem with the area community development corporations, which provides homeowners with the foundation for success.

We do NOT need to reinvent the wheel. We need to ask INHP to lead the effort.

Anonymous said...

Gee-zowey, I've been involved with multiple INHP programs in the past.

What a complete boondoggle.

That wheel doses't need needs trashed and re-started.

That being said, this is a very difficult and complicated problem. It has many layers. There are some pieces of INHP, and many other programs, that could work with some fine-tuning.

Basic to all this discussion: the recipients of any aid or homes, must be as fully-vetted as possible. It is impossible to avoid all foreclosures or ugly situations. But perhaps we can learn from past mortgage broker mistakes, which are plentiful.

Anonymous said...

Eliminate property taxes. That will attract local and national investors who will do this work.

The government should not be in the real estate development business.

By the way, if elected to congress, Sean Shepard told me that he would put his office in a rehabbed abandon home in Center Township. That's pretty cool, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

9:32, My numbers are correct. We are talking about the total number of abandoned houses in the city not the total number of HUD foreclosures. There is a big difference.
Indianapolis has been overrun with blighted abandoned neighborhoods for over 25 year, long before foreclosures we even an issue.
The HUD foreclosures are significant only in that they are making the existing problem far worse than it all ready was.
Please refer to the cities of Cleveland, Buffalo, Baltimore and others and you'll find that HUD foreclosures did not cause their neighborhoods to become abandoned.
Unfortunately, Indianapolis' number of abandoned houses far exceeds those of these cities yet these cities have now developed means by which to attack the problem. They are going after the lenders and property owners now thru the courts and they are winning judgements to get the monies to tear these properties down.

Anonymous said...

First, if ever there was a time for the city to step in, that time is now. Market values are low and you can scoop these properties up cheap. Let's be very clear that this isn't necessarily a project a private developer could handle. Rehabbing homes one-at-a-time is bad business. You can't convince people to move into a nice house in a blighted neighborhood; the rehab has to occur in clusters to give buyers the confidence of real neighborhood progress. If the city targets zip codes and delivers on the redevelopment theme, this could be a very good return on the investment.

Second, I don't agree that the city lacks the "will" to deal with (non-HUD) properties, but they do lack the tools. When nobody purchases the homes at the sheriff's sale, they are sold to "the bank" which may fail to mow the lawn, secure the property, pay taxes, etc. In Indiana, taxes can be delinquent for a year before being offered at tax sale and it may be another year redemption period; potentially 2 years a property can sit empty before it changes ownership. If the legislature would amend the code to speed up that process for abandoned homes, we could effectively deal with bad situations (increased crime, depressed property values, etc.) before they got out of hand.

But then again, those clowns in the Senate were probably just too busy gay-bashing to be concerned with real issues affecting real Hoosiers.

Anonymous said...

Melyssa, how white of Sean to want to that. How noble. Where was his ass on this issue BEFORE he got on his Libertine Soapbox.
If I wanted Ron Paul living on my block I'd call him.
Sean doesn't have any more of a clue than you and your bridge club have.
The elite pandering of the M/K people turns my stomach!
You people wouldn't stay 48 hours in most areas of this town. That's why you live where you live.

Anonymous said...

2:31, The City has the tools. It can enforce the nuisance code like Buffalo, Cleveland, Flint and Baltimore are doing.
Cleveland is getting $100 million to tear down just 5,000 houses that are way beyond repair.
The City of Indianapolis does not concern itself with dealing with this problem and tax sales have never been the answer as it just feeds the blight more.
You are right, a house or two rehabbed in a neighborhood won't do it. Even at that there are risks to buyers. Even Fall Creek Place is getting hit with foreclosures and that area, while better than before it's still sitting inside a war zone.
This is a problem that's not going away and our new Mayor needs to use the tools he has to condemn and tear down these horrid properties and redevelop.
If Cleveland has a plan why not Indianapolis?

Anonymous said...

If you really wanted to attack the problem, you would go after the Hamilton County slumlords who get rich off of these blighted properties....oh, but they are republicans, we cant do that.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 2:45....
First I'm not rich.
I don't hang out with elites...I hang out with regular people.

I grew up very poor in a racially mixed neighborhood in Kokomo. I don't have a father and my mom worked in a factory.

I couldn't even afford a decent car until I was in my 30's.

As a girl, I would have loved to have a Congressperson accessible to me in my poor neighborhood.

Instead, elected officials seemed so far from me that they might as well be on the moon.

That Sean wants to locate in Center Township says a lot about what he feels is important. And these are the kinds of decisions that impress me. They should impress you too.

I hope to see oppression lifted and people have opportunties to iimprove their lives. I also want people to have access to their elected officials. God knows I know what it is like to not have access. I couldn't even get our previous mayor to talk to me ...and I voted from him TWICE !

p.s. Ruckle street is right behind my house. For the first several years I lived there, gunfire was common and I've stayed 10 years!

I'm not the silver-spooned snot you want to believe me to be, however, I am thankfully no longer a former democrat for the party has strayed far from Camelot.

Anonymous said...

Who are these slumlords from Hamilton county and can you tell us about the scams they are perpetuating on the innocents to get rich?

Anonymous said...

I am not going to do your legwork for you but drive through 4 or 5 blocks, write down the addresses and then go to the township assessor's office and see who owns these properties.....BINGO Carmel, Fishers etc............I have done it as I was looking for an abandoned house that I could renovate and move into and....that is what I found............

Anonymous said...

2:18 and 8:54, unless I'm missing something, your numbers are far from correct. You said:

"Anonymous said...
Of the 12,000 estimated abandoned houses in Indianapolis these ones owned by HUD make up less than 2%."

That would be 240 HUD foreclosures. Or, 20 per month.

And that number is far from correct.

And Melyssa, was eloquent about Sean all you want. He's proven by multipleposts here, that he's a goof. He'll be lucky to get 1,000 votes.

Poof. Be gone.