Does South Bend housing plan pose public health threat?

In February, South Bend’s mayor announced plans to deal with 1,000 vacant and abandoned homes in 1,000 days.

Now, some members of the South Bend Common Council are anxious to know ‘how’ the work will be done.

Council members Valerie Schey and Oliver Davis today publicly expressed public safety concerns about how asbestos will be handled. ”If a renovation or demolition project involves only a single isolated residential building then no asbestos inspection is necessary. However, the scope of the project changes this significantly.”

That means the increased scope of the mayor’s plan could require the city to follow more strict and costly regulations than it customarily deals with at the present pace of demolition.

“In terms of environmental issues we absolutely want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence to make sure that those issues are addressed cause heaven forbid if you know those issues are not being addressed and it affects the health of even one of our residents, then we have not done our job,” said Councilwoman Schey.

The new rules would require a licensed professional to pre-test for asbestos and to deal with the hazardous material if it is found.

One estimate shows the new rules would add approximately $4,000 per demolition.

The subject was recently discussed at a meeting between the city administration and Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management. Some on the council are anxious for answers. “If there are rules and regulations out there that deal with plans, there are some reason why those rules and regulations were set up by the state and federal guidelines,” said Councilman Oliver Davis, (D) South Bend’s 6th District. “Let’s not try to spar some around and get around them, and then later on, have people’s health be at risk because we were trying to be politically creative.”

The Buttigieg administration released a written statement today saying it would update the council soon, and that “traditional demolition practices will continue to be done in an environmentally responsible way.”

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