Franklin, Johnson County officials working to address housing blight

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – Some abandoned homes and vacant lots in Franklin may soon be getting a face lift.

City of Franklin and Johnson County officials are working together to get several abandoned properties into the hands of people who can fix them up.

Johnson County officials say this all started when they realized they had a number of homes that kept going to tax sale, year after year, but never were sold.

They say delinquent taxes are piling up, and it’s costing the city money to take care of the properties.

“This is a process we started over a year ago, when we recognized we had a number of properties that continued to go to the tax sale, year after year, obviously with no redemption,” said Ron West, one of the Johnson County Commissioners. “We’d like to get those out of the tax sale, so we don’t have that repetitiveness of trying to sell them, and at the same time we discovered there’s a mechanism called a commissioner’s certificate we can take on these properties, and what that does is, it allows us to offer those properties to other government units at no cost to them.”

The commissioner’s certificate also shortens the redemption and notice time period to 120 days.

“The city of Franklin will take these tax delinquent properties, and get them into the hands of somebody who can fix them up, make them attractive, inhabitable, and back to paying their taxes,” said Rhoni Oliver, Franklin Community Development Specialist.

“The city of Franklin spends a lot of time and money to go out and manage these properties, whether that’s keeping them boarded, police calls, fire calls, keeping properties mowed,” said Oliver. “Also, the city of Franklin is spending a lot of money right now to fix up its main thoroughfares, and a lot of infrastructure improvements, and we’d like for the housing stock to increase in assessed value as well.”

Johnson County Commissioners plan to assign multiple tax certificates to the city of Franklin for five homes and three vacant lots. The city won’t have to pay the delinquent taxes on the properties.

The city hopes to donate the vacant lots to Habitat for Humanity, so they can build there.

They’re hoping to sell the homes.

“It’s a way for us mutually to work with the city of Franklin, and we would do this with the city of Greenwood and the towns around the county. It’s a mutual cooperation and we’re happy to do that,” said West. “This is a way to get it back on the tax rolls and get it into positive use.”

Oliver says once they go through the 120 day redemption period, they’re hoping to take proposals for the properties and then get them into the hands of people who can fix them up. For more information, click here.

The city of Franklin has several ongoing projects to help develop the area.

They currently have two programs to assist downtown property owners including a façade grant program and a low interest loan program.

They’re also working on a plan to revitalize the area where people get off I-65 onto King Street, heading into Franklin.

Oliver also says the city of Franklin was able to fix up many occupied homes a couple years ago using a grant from IHCDA.

The money was used to repair homes occupied by owners at low to average area media income.

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