Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

March 4, 2014

Muncie vying for share of $19.8 million demolition funding

MUNCIE (AP) — Muncie is one of 11 Indiana cities competing for $19.8 million to pay for tearing down vacant houses.

The eastern Indiana city of about 70,000 people will compete for funding with communities in 11 other Indiana counties, including counties surrounding Jeffersonville, Elkhart, Danville, Franklin, LaPorte, Anderson, Bloomington, Valparaiso, Lafayette, Evansville and Terre Haute.

The money would come from a $75 million grant by administered by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. That money, in turn, comes from of a $7.6 billion federal initiative in 18 states hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, to be doled out to unemployed homeowners that need help paying their mortgages. Part of those billions is earmarked for demolition.

The city plans to apply for up to $4 million in federal funds aimed at eliminating urban blight. But it first must find partners willing to take ownership of the empty lots that would remain after demolition.

The house must be owned by a partner, whether that's a church, a neighborhood association, a business or a neighbor who wants a bigger yard. Up to $25,000 is available to pay for such purchases.

Muncie, about 35 miles northeast of Indianapolis, has a list of 199 vacant homes that have been cited as unsafe and targeted for possible demolition.

However, the city must first demonstrate what will be done with the property before it can receive any money to tear down a vacant house, said Christopher Allen of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission. Following demolition, property could be reused as a community garden, a park, construction of new housing or a playground or other things.

"It can't just be an empty lot," Allen said at a public meeting last week.

The deadline to apply for funding is June 16 — leaving little time to acquire title to vacant properties.

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