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Abandoned Homes = Abandoned Future?

In Indianapolis, there are an estimated 8,000 – 15,000 abandoned homes and other properties. In my own downtown neighborhood I can walk north and find empty properties or walk downtown and see vacant buildings.

It doesn’t take much of a rocket scientist to figure out that abandoned homes are magnets for crime. A 14-year old girl was raped near John Marshall School in an abandoned home.

What’s even more of a shame is the fact some activists citizens have placed a sign in front of an abandoned property at 97 N. Dearborn. And the city’s reaction is that the sign doesn’t meet zoning requirements and will have to come down. What about the abandoned property that facilitated the creation of the sign in the first place?

The sad part in all this is that the abandoned homes are symptomatic of a much bigger problem. The problem that too many people are getting homes who shouldn’t have them. There are too many people issuing out home loans who shouldn’t. The sub-prime mortgage scandal that is hitting this nation has far reaching repercussions and we are feeling the effects.

Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

  • Wilson46201

    With a little reportorial sleuthing, I’m sure you will find the IndyU crew and their mascot, The Fat Yellow Chicken, involved with the illegal signage. One tip-off is the citing on the sign of Scott Keller whom they abominate for his support of police consolidation … do some digging, Abdul!

  • Expat Urbanite

    Wilson, if this city’s leadership spent as much time on the problems underlying its crime epidemic as you do on fishing for red herring, people wouldn’t be fleeing for the ‘burbs and the city’s ranking would not have fallen 17 spots. But they–and you–continue spending time on “illegal signage” and combatting the rat problem on the Titanic.

  • Uh, what “ranking”?

    I continually hear about Indy’s “ranking” slipping, Urbanite has it falling 17 spots.

    What “ranking” are you referring to?

    And, for the record, check the census. People aren’t fleeing to the burbs in numbers.

    Can we stick to the facts? They’re daming enough. Over at IndyU, they hypothesize ad naseum about such “rankings” and “facts.”

  • On The Spot

    The ranking is as correct as the census figure the city uses. Don’t get yourself, those people filling up the exburbs in the donut counties have to be coming from somewhere. Unless the US Census conducted a survey in 2006, which they didn’t, then it’s safe to say Indianapolis is losing population. Again, the explosive growth of new residents in exburbs is being fueled by quality of life issues in Marion County aka just as Detoit, Cleveland, Gary etc. etc.
    One the flight starts is generally is irreversable regardless of the few new urban gentry in our Mile Square “Green Zone”.

  • http://www.lpinscr.blogspot.com Mark W. Rutherford

    Thank goodness for the sign ordinance protecting us from signs! This is much more important than dealing with murderers and other criminals, isn’t it?

    Seriously, I wish this city would deal with real priorities, such as our embarrassing sewer system and growing crime problem, rather than enforcing ridiculous sign ordinances designed to force on others the elitist bureaucrats’ and politicians’ aesthetics, and/or planting 100,000 trees no one will see because they’ve moved out to avoid the crime.

  • Wilson46201

    White flight is nothing new – Dick Lugar was scaring voters with tales of Gary and Cleveland (the only 2 Northern cities with Black mayors) to ensure the passage of Uni-Gov almost 40 years ago. The population of Indianapolis has remained substantially stable nevertheless – people move out and people move in.

    With the U.S. spending $2 billion a week to make the streets of Baghdad safe, perhaps a wiser investment might be in America’s cities instead?

  • Passerby

    While zoning ordinances can be confusing, and occasionally obstructive, it does help to keep the rest of the major avenues from looking like East Washington. I do find it fairly amusing that someone went through all of that trouble to create a sign that size (with City emblems no less) and NO ONE SAW WHO DID IT. The thing is on 4×4′s it’s not like you can just pound them into the ground.

    The real root of the problem is that there are far too many abandoned houses still standing anduntil people stop sipping the Empty Promise brand of Democrat Kool Aid in Center township, it’s going to continue. Is it a big surprise that the NE51 and NE53 police beats consistently outrank the rest of near downtown with police runs. And those are just the things that are reported. Both beats have a huge amount of abandoned property. How many houses in Center township, not in Fall Creek Place or a historic district, actually gained value? Seriously, I’m curious.

    Another big question (for Mr. Rutherford specifically), when will a third party candidate emerge for City Council or even for mayor?

    I hate myself for agreeing you, but yes Wilson, national priorities are currently not in the interest of the nation. Money talks, bulls**t walks, as the saying goes.

  • Irvingtonian

    Passerby,
    The issue with the sign on Dearborn is NOT who placed it there and it is NOT the size of the sign. It about the false promises made by the Mayor that abandoned house would be cleaned up. One neighborhood, and any others to come, were simply fed up with their complaints falling on deaf ears and so a statement was made with a simple sign. Sure, the buck stops on the Mayor’s desk but from what I read on that Dearborn Street sign it called out people of both parties. If it was only a partison attack on the Mayor then Scott Keller’s name would not have been on the sign. The Mayor got top billing because he and his administration failed to act when attention was brought to this serious abandoned house problem by people in the neighborhood as well as other neighborhoods.
    People seem to be missing the point. It’s dangerous and blighted properties which invite crime that need to be taken care of not who put such a sign up or whether that sign meets code.
    It’s that abandoned house that sits behind that sign that’s the issue. The Mayor CAN take care of that abandoned but the choice is his. Let us all hope for the sake of the saftey of our children in the city that he chooses wisely and does the job he was elected to do.

  • Mike B

    Back in 2003 the Mayor stated the he would be “creating a “Top Ten” list of the worst violators and taking legal action to hold these negligent property owners accountable;”

    Do we know if anything has become of those top 10 violators ?

  • http://the-pa-in-connection.blogspot.com/ Bob G.

    Parts of Fort Wayne are much the same….abandoned houses being broken into regularly for God knows what activities.

    And that blight sends all the “right” messages to those willing to indulge in such activities. It gets to a point where there’s NEVER enough police to stem the rising tide of crime in these areas. As a result, what few people you have living there, trying to stay out of harm’s way, get fed up and move away too.

    In many cases, the red tape involved to condemn and (eventually) raze such structures is lengthy…as in it takes YEARS to get anything done. I see this first-hand. Year after year, houses that have not had ONE occupant are still there, becoming more an eyesore than the previous year, or at best, becoming another “rental” harboring whatever comes the landlord’s way.

    Funny thing, when the CITY WANTS to raze buildings for whatever “new development”, those bulldozers are there within a week!
    But when it comes to citizens and their safery, the issue goes on the back burner, seemingly ad infinitum.

    Personally, I’d like to see a renaissance with these homes being refurbed, occupied with working people who still give a damn about their city. THAT would go much further to foster a sense of community pride and would garner even more development to the betterment of everyone involved.

    Not to mention, it sure as anything helps to bolster an otherwise eroding tax base for our cities.

    B.G.

  • Girl Friday

    Funny, the Mayor’s office can inact an ordinance violation against a simple sign which brings public awareness to the blight of abandoned homes in our city. However, they can’t seem to file a zoning lawsuit against the peashakes which are still in operation as of this weekend.

  • Passerby

    Irvingtonian,

    I believe you missed my point. If you can get away with something such as putting up a large white sign in a residential neighborhood with no one noticing, how can you stop crime in the same areas? This is even more evident when those same people are trying to conceal themselves or their activities. You can’t stop what no one reports or notices and there aren’t enough officers for them to be proactive. Aside from neighborhood organizations raising the money for demolition themselves, the abandoned houses are just going to sit there. There is no incentive for people to fix them since the property values have collapsed in those areas due to crime, blight or absentee ownership.

    Girl Friday,

    The ordinance has been in place for at least 4-5 years, read the exempt signs clause for political opinion signs. Had it met the size requirements, the City couldn’t mess with it.

  • Irvingtonian

    Passerby,
    I felt I’d missed your point after I posted but I understand where you’re coming from now. My apologies.
    It is my understanding that the association in that neighborhood does have the funds for demolition and is waiting 30 days before proceeding with that house. Might be a good time for the city health department or owner to step forward before the bulldozer comes in and years of legal proceedings ensue.
    I would have to imagine that whoever put the sign up wasn’t much concerned about it’s size or who was around at the time. It was meant to get a message across about the neglect of inner circle outside of the Green Zone.
    Good thoughts and comments on the subject Passerby. Thank you for at least giving a damn to say something about the problem.
    We are struggling with the same situations in Irvington with about as much luck.

  • Dormie One

    I just received an email from a blgger in Detroit. As of 2005 that had 12,000 abandoned homes. According to Councilman Scott Keller, Indianapolis ONLY HAS 8,000 but the survey was not complete and it was done 4 years ago. My guesstimate would be that Indy has over 12,000 abandoned homes with the majority in Center Township.
    The problem is here is the same in Detroit, no political will, corruption and lack of money. Outside of the few who are gentrifying the downtown Indianapolis is losing population.

  • Passerby

    Irvingtonian,

    No harm no foul. It’s good to see people wanting their neighborhood to be a safe place for their family to live. I think it’s a fundamental right for people to be able to improve where they live and be given the (policy) tools and/or due process to do so. There really are a lot more people that think the same way than are heard from. All it will take are a few key people in key places to get the ball rolling.

    Unfortunately the only way we are going to rid the city of abandoned housing is removal. Weed and Seed is popular funding for that type of initiative. I’m not a legal or policy expert, but your neighborhood organization should look into becoming a non-profit (such as 503c). For a good number of grants you have to be a local government or non-profit to qualify.

    If the City won’t remove abandoned houses/absentee owners for you, do it yourself. Ultimately, City/County government is there to serve you and it’s high time people took back their neighborhoods.

  • Shorebreak

    There’s a solution for this problem if the city is willing to make a few changes to it’s policies and work out some agreements with finance companies and lien holders. Let’s at least have a dialogue on what can be done, rather than complaining about what’s not being done.

    Here’s my two cents. It’s a little bit radical and it may need some serious revision based on legal limitations, but I’m throwing it out there anyways:

    The first premise is that current lien holders on these properties are NOT gonna get paid. They’re living in a pipe dream if they believe otherwise.

    So what’s the solution?

    Step 1: The city can work with lien holders and with the state to enact an ordinance that declares that all properties that are unmaintained AND abandoned shall be ceded to the city after x period of time.

    Step 2: The city agrees to sell these properties at auction with a starting bid of $1000 dollars, or whatever arbitrary number they feel will entice buyers. The city keeps 20% of the proceeds to cover costs, and the lien holder keeps the remaining 80%. For properties that are not under lien, the city keeps x% of proceeds and agrees to distribute y% of the proceeds an a per capita basis among lien holders who don’t recoup their lien value at auction.

    Using a rough estimate of 10,000 abandoned properties, that’s a minimum $2,000,000 credit to city accounts – which would more than cover the cost of managing the operation. Potential for the city could easily be in the 6-10 million dollar range, or higher. All proceeds that exceed the cost of managing the auctions would go towards law enforcement and the razing of properties that failed to sell.

    Step 3: As part of the plan, buyers would be committed to specific contractual terms within the purchase agreement. A buyer would have a time period (30 days?) to declare whether they plan to restore the property or raze the structure. Those planning to raze the structure would be required to complete the process within a given time period (45 days?). Those planning to restore the property would also face a timeframe (180 days?) to complete their restoration.

    All property activity related to restoration and/or razing would be governed under current guidelines for inspections, codes, permits etc.

    Those who fail to meet their deadlines would face recourse by the city, included in the terms of the purchase agreement. This could include penalties for unnaproved delays and could ultimately result in forfeiture of the property, whereupon the city would place it back up on the auction block.

    Step 4: Purchasers would agree that they may not sell the property until they had met their contractual agreement with the city to either raze or restore.

    The end result of this type of program would eliminate abandoned properties, profit city law enforcement efforts, enable buyers low cost housing or an opportunity for reasonable profit, provide employment incentives for local construction companies, and reduce the potential for increased criminal activity surrounding blighted neighborhoods.

    That’s it. Feel free to send it over to the city for their consideration. I post ananymously, so anyone who wants to put their name on the idea is free to do so.

  • Mike B

    I emailed the Mayors office asking for a copy of the TOP 10 list and if they keep it updated as people fall off and new people are added.

    This was the reply.

    Subject:RE: Mayor’s Abandoned Housing Initiative
    Date:Wednesday, April 18, 2007 10:22:20 AM

    Mr. Bowman,

    Thus far, I have not been able to obtain the list. I do know that it is available through the Star archives for a fee, but I am checking to see if someone with the City can supply it.

    Kristin Reed

    —-

    So much for staying on top of this initiative !

    Mike B.

  • Dormie One

    Mike B,
    See why folks are pissed off. There is NO LIST. They only had one and that was 4 years ago. A Top 10 list really accomplishes little as most of the abandoned blighted homes are not owned by slumlords and even fewer are actually owned by a mortgage company or bank.
    12,000 to 15,000 abandoned houses, most of which are in Center Township, did not become abandoned and blighted as a result of foreclosures. The problem has existed for years and will not get better any time soon.

  • Mike B

    I did get a reply today.

    Mr. Bowman:

    I apologize for the delay. Here is the list from 2003 you were seeking:

    4141 Investments, Marshall Welton, James Chalfont
    Williams, Williams, David J. (Jeff) Williams
    Aspen Group, Pacific Group, Delmar Charitable
    Sullivan Funding Group, Lance Lanconi
    Wanamaker Construction, Daniel Wise
    Emmett Hall
    Scott Earlywine
    David Hoeft, D & K Properties
    Chris Terman
    Christopher Simmons

    Kristin Reed
    Director of Constituent Services
    Mayor Peterson’s Office
    City of Indianapolis

    ————-

    I replied back to ask if she knew if this list has ever been updated since 2003.

    Mike B

  • Anonymous

    One final update.

    Mr. Bowman,

    Please find the list from ’04 below. It is my understanding that this was the last time it was updated.

    Aspen Group
    Charles Williams, David Williams and Jeff Williams
    D & L Management, LLC
    4141 Investments, Inc., Marshall Welton, James Chalfont
    WGO Investments, Inc.
    Mooring Tax Asset Group, LLC
    Lorianne R. Farley
    Sullivan Funding Group, Lance Laconi
    First Investment Group Corp.
    Edward Karatka

    —————

    So they have not updated it almost 3 years. Well they did make some progress. 6 fell of and 6 were added.

    Mike B.

  • Anonymous

    Mike B.
    Standard procedure: Mayor announces grand plan with news conference. Mayor appoints a blue ribbon group to put names to the plan. Group has cocktails at Crooked Stick. Mayor gets a few campaign $$ from group. Mayor and group go home.
    Four years later a few names change. Problem gets bigger and bigger. Mayor continues to let abandoned homes in neighborhoods rot but goes after violent video games now. Indianapolis Abandoned Home Tour sign still in front of blighted abandoned property on Dearborn Street. Mayor has Department of Metropolitan Development issue sign violation order to supposed owner of house on Dearborn. House still not inspected for health and code violations. Mayor meets at 300 East with supporters and has cocktails. Mayor goes home. Life’s good. City’s safer. More trees are planted and all is well in Indianapolis.

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  • melissa bracken

    In 1999 my deceased husband and I purchased a home from Marshall Welton, a man as popular as Marshall should be easy to find. I’m having a hard time. The only reason I need to find him is he stuck me with a 2nd mortgage that I don,t fully owe him for,I would like to pay him for what I do owe so I can refinance and put the house in my name. The mortgage co. he hooked us up with will not discuss anything with me, even with all the proper paperwork. marshall I just want to finish raising my boys and continue my life. my last name is Bracken I live on State ave. if you keep your paperwork like I do you’ll be able to find me.Thank you.

  • conniejones

    I am sure that you have found him by now, but if you haven't, his cell phone is 507-4141 and his new company name is WGO Investments. Good luck.

  • concerned

    What is the Mortgage company he hooked you up with? Have you been able to resolve this mess?

  • rebecca

    Well we was trying to but a rent to own from him he took out loans and he also is trying to make us move we moved in in 2010 he wants us to pay 2009 taxes he is bad to deal with and I am taking him to court wish my family lusk he got us for 8000 dollars by having us do our taxes with his tax guys he had it put right in his bank acount we need that money to fix the crappy house he sold us and there was squatters in the house he was aware of and made us call the cops and remove them they trashed our home we had no money he took it and he is now trying to make me move with my husband and 4 kids I can’t wait intill court wgo and marshall welton are bad news I hope he gets shut down and don’t hurt any more familys again.

  • rebecca

    He has office next to the light com. Ipl across from the bank and wendys he been there for a long time now he also has a tax place where he is doing peoples taxes.

  • rebecca

    Wgo 235 north deleware st. And over by the light com. Is his main office.

  • javelin

    My son bought an abandoned house and took it on as a 10 year project, even though new houses were on the block no one was buying them for several yrs after he moved in. He is still working on his house as he lives there. One of his new neighbors want my sons house torn down. He falsely reported it has abandoned and ready to fall on the house next to it. My son has put over $100000 in his house with new roof, stabilizing the foundation, new joists inside etc.. The neighbor keeps calling the inspectors on him. He succeeded in having one house demolished after the owner put in new windows, painted and fixed the sidewalk. Then they bought the land for 2500 dollars. Isn’t there any way to stop them? My son doesn’t have much money and he can’t have everything done by 30 days even if he had the money.