Abandoned houses should be torn down

October 24, 2009

[In response to the Oct. 19 viewpoint] Some of [Kurt] Wiegand’s points were spot-on, but his analysis of the economic impact regarding Mayor Ballard’s plan to demolish abandoned homes misses the mark by a wide margin.

First, consider one of the reasons that population has fled to outside of the Interstate 465 ring at the expense of inner-city Indianapolis: the quality of public education. I know that [IPS superintendent] Dr. [Eugene] White has his hands full and this is not meant as a criticism of his efforts, only a statement of fact. In 2008, Arlington High School, at 4825 N. Arlington Ave., had a graduation rate of 48 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Lawrence Central High School, located at 7300 E. 56th St. (four minutes, or two miles north and east) had a graduation rate of 78.6 percent. If you had a choice of buying a house, which school system would you choose? Fix the school system, reduce the crime and people will buy homes inside of I-465.

Second, Wiegand’s criticisms of the mayor’s plan to demolish abandoned homes ignores economics. It costs approximately $7,000 to smash an abandoned home, cart the rubble away, and make a buildable residential lot. It costs $15,000 to $25,000 to make an abandoned/foreclosed home livable again. After that, the home that you bought at foreclosure for $25,000 and invested another $20,000 in will appraise for $38,000 in today’s market, and be taxed as if it were worth $80,000. This is a real-life experience with which I’m all too familiar. Bottom line: there is very little economic incentive for investors to buy foreclosed homes in inner-city Indianapolis at any price.

Third, Wiegand is critical of the blight that is a vacant lot, but ignores the blight that is an abandoned house. Abandoned homes attract drug dealers, gang activity, vandalism, arson, etc. Ask any inner-city homeowner what he’d rather live next to, an abandoned home or a vacant lot? You know the answer.

Finally, I think that Wiegand ignored the lessons espoused by proponents of “creative destruction.” Cities such as Tokyo that were totally leveled in World War II came back very quickly because they were a blank canvas that people were willing to invest in. As long as the existing stock of abandoned homes blights the inner city, there will be no growth and no economic recovery for the areas that Weigand characterizes as zones of “economic apartheid.”

If you want jobs, economic growth, higher home prices, and more tax revenue, tear down every abandoned home in Indianapolis. It’s that simple.


Bradford Barkley
Rebound Properties LLC

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