Residents weigh in on South Bend's vacant and abandoned homes plan

During a meeting at Washington High School Wednesday night, South Bend residents gave city leaders feedback on their new plan to tackle the city's longstanding vacant and abandoned housing problem.

A special task force released a hefty report Wednesday detailing how the city will reduce the number of problem properties over the next three years.

The task force set an ambitious goal of dealing with 1,000 properties in 1,000 days through demolition or rehabilitation.

Residents like Becky Kaiser have been waiting for the city to do something about the homes for years.

Kaiser lives on Diamond Avenue, where she says only about 10 percent of the homes in a three-block span are occupied; many that have been abandoned are beyond repair.

"They've been wide open for two years, they've had multiple fires in them," Kaiser said. "They're now used for drug dealers or having parties or hiding stolen goods in."

Kaiser says she's pleased with the city's plan and hopes it will be implemented quickly.

But, others at Wednesday night's meeting expressed concern that the city wasn't being proactive enough.

Some said South Bend should focus more on how to get more people owning and maintaining homes through programs that help low-income families, such as the city's old dollar house program.

But, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said it's important to take down homes that are a public health and safety hazard.

He says the city will work through private and public partnerships to find new uses for dilapidated homes and vacant lots.

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