The latest batch of houses marked to be demolished as part of South Bend’s vacant and abandoned housing initiative has been opened up for bids.
Thursday the city’s code enforcement held a meeting with five contractors to accept bids to tear down about 115 empty homes. The bids ranged from $275,000 to just over $400,000. Brian Haygood, chief inspector for the city’s code enforcement said a decision will likely be made next week as to who won the bid.
“We have an estimate in our minds about where those are going to be at,” Haywood said discussing the entered bids, “we’re pleasantly surprised at where we’re at with that particular bid opening.”
Another bid opening will occur in November to contract out the demolition of a similar-sized grouping of houses. Before any construction crews do any work tearing down the structures, Haygood said it takes time to retire the utilities and cut off water, electricity and gas. The time frame for actual demolition is much shorter once those utilities are off and the contractor has received a permit.
Haygood said it is basically the end of the line for the houses scheduled to be torn down.
“They start out with simple housing citations where we’ve cited the homeowner for a substandard house hoping they’d repair them,” Haygood explained. At that point the property owner doesn’t complete the necessary repairs or simply walks away and the city steps in to demolish it.
The initiative may seem to emphasize tearing these homes down, but Haygood said the ultimate goal is to get people to repair their own property.
On Wednesday code enforcement officials held hearings with an estimated 46 properties. Of that group Haygood said about 20 percent were changed from ‘to-be-demolished’ to ‘to-be-repaired.’
Whether the homes are torn down or restored, Haygood said it’s a win-win for the communities they’re located in—and neighbors agree.
“Well I think it’s great that they’re coming in and fixing the homes up or tearing them down so that they can be replaced with nicer homes,” said Jennifer Buscoe, a woman who works near a string of vacant houses on Queen St.
“The nicer the homes, the nicer the community and the more people we can draw into the community,” Buscoe added.
Eric Glassburn has lived on Queen St. his whole life and said it’s changed dramatically over the past 60 years.
“A lot of the condemned homes, they need to be torn down. There’s a lot of kids in the neighborhood that break into the houses, they party in the houses, they’re having sex in the houses, they’re doing drugs in the houses, the windows are all broken out,” Glassburn explained.
Neighbors living across the street to adjacent to these vacant and abandoned properties say they cannot wait for the houses to go away. For them, it’s more than just an eyesore, it’s a matter of safety as well.