City to spend $4.5M on program to raise Black homeownership

Officials announce the Vacant to Vibrant initiative Tuesday in the Riverside neighborhood.

In an effort to combat displacement and decreasing Black homeownership, the city of Indianapolis plans to pump $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds into rehabilitating city-owned properties and providing them to lower-income residents.

The Vacant to Vibrant initiative, announced Tuesday, will utilize about 100 lots that have fallen into disrepair and are held in the city’s land bank. Developers will be provided funding to rehabilitate the properties and sell them to residents making 80% or less of the area’s median income, which translates to $73,050 annually for a family of four, the city said.

A report from the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana released in December showed that historically Black neighborhoods, like Martindale-Brightwood, were losing Black homeowners while experiencing an “influx of upper-income, mostly white homebuyers,” investor purchases and increasing home prices, which the Fair Housing Center concluded is due to displacement and gentrification.

Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood Engagement Judith Thomas cited the Fair Housing Center’s finding that Black homeownership in Indianapolis has dropped 14% in the last decade.

The neighborhoods of focus are also areas where the city owns more land: Martindale-Brightwood, Riverside and the Near Eastside.

City leaders announced the new program in the Riverside neighborhood at 1260 Eugene St., one of the properties that might be rehabilitated. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the Riverside is a focus partially due to recent investments the city has made in Riverside Park, which received $11 million in improvements in 2022 and is set to receive further investments due to Lilly Endowment’s $80 million in grants to Indy Parks.

“As historic redevelopment continues at Riverside Park, we are sure to see a demand for homes in the area increase. But that shouldn’t mean that the loyal residents of this neighborhood get priced out,” Hogsett said.

Sharon Clark, a founder of Aspire House, said that her near-northwest-side community is “one of the best-kept secrets in Indianapolis,” and that she is hopeful it can be restored to it’s former sheen. Aspire House seeks to create housing and learning opportunities to dismantle systematic racism in the community.

“We had amazing, amazing things in this neighborhood,” Clark said. “And I’m here to tell you that this still is that neighborhood, and we’re here to help bring that back.”

Developers are already able to apply for the properties, and the Department of Metropolitan Development is working to expedite the process of redevelopment, according to interim director Rusty Carr.

City leaders will work with community leaders to review the proposals presented by interested developers.

“Each neighborhood where there’s a lot of properties focused, they will have specific focus groups of neighborhood residents to weigh in on the proposals in their neighborhood with city staff,” Carr told IBJ.

The concept has been in the works since before the American Rescue Plan funds had been given to the city, Carr said. Often community development corporations and neighborhoods are given city land bank properties or funding to work on these projects, but typically it is just one or the other. This is a rare opportunity where both are presented, he told IBJ.

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14 thoughts on “City to spend $4.5M on program to raise Black homeownership

  1. absolutely great idea helping folks – but why limit it to one specific group when there are all types of people regardless of skin color that need help.

    racism…comes in every form from every color

    1. The program is not limited to race. It’s limited to people with low-income/wealth, which when applied broadly within our city, affects Black homeownership significantly.

  2. This program sounds racist and violates Federal Law. Civil rights act of 1964 forbids discrimination based on race, which is exactly what this program is doing.

    1. you do realize that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only protects against discrimination under basis of race in hiring, promoting, and firing decisions, right? or did you not read the rest of the first link on your google search?

    2. The program is not limited to race. It’s limited to people with low- and medium-income/wealth.

    3. Colton, if that were true, why did the courts quickly and summarily shoot down Biden’s financial aid specifically directed to black farmers affected by the pandemic last year?

      Charlie H is correct that it will have to be limited to people below a certain income, regardless of race or ethnicity.

  3. Habitat for Humanity has been and is doing this all over Indianapolis. I bet they are far more cost effective and of higher quality for lower cost than any of these programs.

    1. It appears H4H could apply for this grant. The city does not do the work themselves. These are grants that builders, non-profits, etc. apply for and use the money to fund the project redevelopment.

  4. Great idea! But with that should be programs about long term maintenance of the property, the structure and the yard.

    And what is the City doing to increase the tree canopy. This area was once splendidly tree lined. What happened to the trees. Why were they felled. And absent and citywide policy, should the City offer carrots through programs to provide trees which increase curbside appeal and neighborhood attractiveness.

    1. There are countless free resources about homeownership and maintenance. It’s probably best not to get the government involved in something already handled by the market.

      As for trees, they provide recommendations for adding trees in their Infill Housing Guidelines, which this program references. They are not binding requirements however. The city does contract with KIBI to provide trees to neighborhoods through grants. https://www.kibi.org/community-forestry

  5. Anyone else find it interesting that the Mayor is coming out of his hiding the last couple weeks to promote programs his administration had nothing to do with? These were all through federal government and charitable grants. He only comes out for photo-ops.

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