A South Bend Common Councilman today called for a moratorium on the city funded demolition of vacant and abandoned homes.
Councilman Henry Davis, Jr., (D) 2nd District, feels that too much emphasis has been put on tearing down distressed properties and not enough on rehabbing or rebuilding them.
Today, a vacant and abandoned home in the 1,000 block of West Jefferson was torn down by a city hired contractor. The sight bothered at least one neighbor who knows the ailing and aging owner.
“I think he tried to save his houses, especially this house, this is the house he raised his family in,” said Maurice McGee who lives in the neighborhood. “You know it was his property, he was here often enough where you knew it belonged to somebody.”
McGee said the owner made repairs to his properties, but wasn’t able to raise enough money to bring them up to code. Tax records show that the owner was only one year behind on his property tax payments.
Councilman Davis today went so far as to call the city’s demolition policy, “ruthless.”
“The city is looking to demolish well over 400 more homes over the next couple of years,” said Councilman Davis. “I think that we need to put a comprehensive plan together that says demolition plus something else, rather than not just demolition.”
Councilman Davis would like to see tax credit programs offered to developers.
The call for a moratorium came just days before a mayoral task force planned to release its final report, capping a year worth of study.
“This is my third term on the council,” said Derek Dieter, (D) At Large. “I’ve never heard onetime where someone as called me and said we shouldn’t have torn that house down.”
Even McGee agreed in the end that his neighborhood was probably “safer” without the home at 1036.
This isn’t something that happened overnight, this isn’t something we’re going to fix overnight,” said Councilman Dieter. But from my perspective of being out there daily, driving in the neighborhoods, the houses that are beyond repair in such a state that they couldn’t be resold, rehabbed I say tear them down.”
The city still has about 1,900 abandoned homes, despite the fact that it has torn down about 800 homes in recent years.