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Opening Arguments

A bold approach

A suggestion for an innovative approach to urban blight in Indianapolis:

The problem Indianapolis faces, like other major urban centers, is too much housing of the wrong kind. That's one reason home prices are so low compared with outlying suburban areas. These low prices, and the low-income consumers to which they cater, squeeze profit margins to the point that individual developers and builders can't make enough money to justify a major investment or commitment.

Indianapolis is in a position to turn this around in a revolutionary way.

Rather than sell foreclosed and abandoned homes as individual units, the city should use this opportunity to consolidate the properties and sell them as a block. Rather than offer neighborhood groups one house, or several houses scattered throughout these neighborhoods, the city could offer them as one property. This gives developers, whether private for-profit or nonprofit, more opportunities to make the project financially viable.

Then developers can think in terms of larger-scale projects that might include a mix of residential and commercial units, a mix of different kinds of housing units -- or the property might be redeveloped based on its current use. The low profit margins on individual units can be aggregated over the entire project, or even increased by allowing higher-valued commercial uses.

Too many, including me on occasion, tend to talk about public and private development as an either/or proposition. But the public and private sectors can work together as long as the public sector realizes that making a profit is not an un-American activity.  Sometimes, that involves simply staying out of the way, and sometimes it takes a bold approach such as the one recommended here.


Mon, 03/24/2008 - 9:22am

Does the city own these properties outright? If not, and the city uses its power to benefit private developers, don't you get into the whole Kelo v. City of New London outrage?

Leo Morris
Mon, 03/24/2008 - 11:07am

No, the properties in question are all in default, so there's no eminenet domain issue.

Bob G.
Mon, 03/24/2008 - 11:36am

Wow...sounds like the over 400 hovels on the southside of Ft. Wayne that stand vacant.

I guess razing all THEM and starting over (to reclaim a neighbrhood with taxpaying home-OWNERS) would be a non-sequitor, as it has been for years, and look where THAT is getting us.

That would be NOWHERE...FAST.