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Community leaders look to restore equity in blighted neighborhoods

South Bend, Ind.—  

South Bend neighbors are looking for solutions to vacant lots and abandoned homes still on their blocks.

“Everyone can see that the neighborhoods are going down, the people that can even afford to maintain their homes are starting to say, ‘hey, it’s time to get out’” said neighbor Otis Ray Jones.

Jones says crime isn’t a problem.

His issue is with the lack of community investment in his neighborhood.

“It’s almost like a dividing line when you cross the St. Joseph River,” said Jones. “It just makes you wonder, what is being done different to keep that neighborhood in tact as opposed to letting this one here collapse.”

Code enforcement addressed collapsing communities with the 1000 homes in 1000 days Initiative a few years ago, but some feel knocking down problem properties hasn’t completely solved the problem.

“When you create fields in a neighborhood that no one is going to buy, what you’re doing is creating a blighted neighborhood,” said Jones.

Community redeveloper Consuella Hopkins says there’s still hope for the fields left in the aftermath of that program.

“I definitely see the potential here,” said Hopkins.

She believes the city can still restore equity in these communities.

“We’re trying to keep things also together and clean and make it a viable neighborhood for children to play in,” she said.

She’s doing that by working with the city’s common council.

She and councilwoman Regina Preston developed a program that would see new homes rise from these lots.

They’re calling it 100 Homes in 500 days, and it would also restore the homes around them.

“What we’re doing is looking at different areas around the city, we call them impact areas, that can really use new homes, as well as rehabbing rentals as well as helping homeowners improve their homes,” said Hopkinss.

The initiative comes from a community cleanup program that happens down Lincolnway West every year.

Hopkins says the goal is to bring pride back to this side of town.

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