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Affordable homeownership program aims to turn Indy neighborhoods from 'vacant to vibrant'

Thanks to American Rescue Plan funding, city leaders are able to purchase about 100 properties to support an affordable housing program called "Vacant to Vibrant."

INDIANAPOLIS — If you take a stroll on Eugene Street in the Riverside neighborhood on the near northwest side of Indianapolis, it's hard to miss vacant and boarded-up homes.

The city of Indianapolis is stepping up to help.

Thanks to $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding, city leaders are able to purchase about 100 properties to support an affordable housing program called "Vacant to Vibrant."

"Vacant to Vibrant is just the latest tool in the city's toolbox that seeks to develop neighborhoods responsibly and sustainably. We're committed to making bold choices to provide Indianapolis residents and families with a safe place to live," said Mayor Joe Hogsett.

The program will benefit city-owned properties in the near northwest, Martindale-Brightwood and near east side neighborhoods.

Longtime neighbors say addressing the blight is good, but they have other concerns.

"There are no grocery stores, there are buildings that can support a store. If I didn't have my children and grandchildren, how could I get to the grocery store to get food?" said one 81-year-old resident.

That resident has lived in the near northwest side community for more than 40 years.

"The neighborhood was good, everybody knew each other. There were no problems," she said.

Those problems began, she said, when most homeowners moved away.

Others didn't take care of their homes and the community went on the decline.

"Like this house next door now. It's empty. It's literally falling down," she said.

Hogsett agreed that Indianapolis has to face this growing problem.  

"We are sure to see a demand for homes will increase, but that shouldn't mean that the loyal residents of this neighborhood get priced out," said Hogsett.

Once homes are redeveloped, properties will be available for Hoosiers earning less than 80 percent of the area median income of about $73,000 annually for a family of four.

"I think for a long time this area has kind of been forgotten and it's great to see the start of more development and redevelopment to bring it back," said Sharon Clark of Aspire House.

Clark hopes this moves the neighborhood forward, so it doesn't repeat an ominous cycle.  

"The cycles of health and division, disinvestment, decay and gentrification have been the death of countless Black and brown neighborhoods across our country," said City-County Council President Vop Osili.

Osili said these problems can't be fixed overnight, but the city is moving in the right direction.

"This is one of those spaces that has those kinds of diamonds in the rough built in and it's just time to invest," said Clark.

It's something one longtime homeowner said should be affordable for all.

"The ones that can afford a house and apply for a house, make it easy for them to get it."

The Vacant to Vibrant application can be found on indy.gov. Proposals submitted are due to the Department of Metropolitan Development at noon on March 31, 2023.

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