- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - A drive to repair or demolish 1,000 abandoned South Bend houses in 1,000 days is off to a slow start, but city leaders expect the pace to quicken.

About 90 houses have been repaired and 44 have been demolished since Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled the plan in February 2013, the South Bend Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1nT8GXg ).

Deputy Mayor Mark Neal said city workers spent several months cataloguing 1,177 vacant and abandoned houses around the city as the program geared up.

The city has signed contracts to demolish about 200 houses by the end of the year, and Neal said he was confident action would be taken on at least 500 houses by the end of this year.

“We certainly would like to be further along, but in terms of where we’re at, I think it’s reasonable,” he said.

Fannie Chambers has put up with an abandoned house next to her home for at least 10 years. The porch is collapsing, and raccoons, cats and other animals have taken up residence inside.

Other houses on her block west of the city’s downtown include a vacant house with its siding stripped off and another that was gutted by fire. Six houses in the neighborhood are under contract for demolition this year, and Chambers said she was encouraged by the mayor’s program.

“He’s trying to do what he said he was going to do,” she said. “It takes time.”

The city has had to inspect houses for asbestos before tearing them down, which has led to some demolition contracts having to be rebid, Neal said. This winter’s severe weather also slowed down some work.

“Clearly the winter has created some challenges for us,” Neal said. “There has been some demo work going on, but it’s not at the pace that we would like.”

The city has set aside $2 million for the project and is seeking more grant funding.

City Council President Oliver Davis, whose district includes about 170 abandoned houses, said he was satisfied with the project’s progress so far.

Davis said his one concern is that something be done with the vacant lots once all the houses are torn down.

“What are we going to do with the gaps?” Davis said. “Is there any plan to replace it with some other housing, with some other business, with some gardening or whatever, to beautify the area so it does not just become a sore spot?”


Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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