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South Bend vacant homes task force: It will take years to fix problem

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The City of South Bend's vacant and abandon homes task force held another public meeting and laid out a new plan to knock down more houses.

There are roughly 1,900 old, vacant homes in need work or just need to be torn down in the city.

The task force said it can start taking care of those homes that can be rehabbed in the next three to nine months, but it will be five years before the city will have all the high-priority homes knocked down.

Vacant homes and the problems that come with them are nothing new to South Bend.

"They are put in the middle of something that is a 50-year-old problem and it's not going to be fixed over night," said South Bend resident Joe Sutherland.

It is a challenge the city has tried to tackle for decades, but residents said the problem continues to grow.

"I have some houses in my neighborhood that have been vacant so long that, as I said, literally have trees growing in the houses," said Becky Kaiser.

A handful of people from the community came to see what progress has been made by the city's task force. At the meeting officials laid out a new plan, a plan that will not show real results for at least five years.

"We are tired of waiting. We need some action, it's become a safety issue and it's become a health issue," said Kaiser.

"We all want to see it fixed now, if I had a magic wand this is certainly one of the first things I would use it on. What we really need is a plan, one that is viable and that we can pay for," said Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The mayor said there are hundreds of vacant and abandoned houses sitting empty and dilapidated in all across South Bend neighborhoods, but it is going to take time and money to do.

"This isn't going to be fixed over night. There is no way to fix this over night, but I do think we can do more and do it faster and that is part of what this group is trying to help us do."

The task force will present its final plan and budget to the city council at the end of September. The mayor said council members will play a vital role in the plan because the biggest issue is the city faces is finding the money for demolition.

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