St. Joseph County working to address condemned homes problem


St. Joseph County is entering unfamiliar territory.

County Commissioners, the building department and others are working to address a growing problem of condemned houses.

The building commissioner says there are about 80 right now in St. Joseph County.

We're talking 80 houses outside the city limits of South Bend and Mishawaka.

The county is in the process of implementing a program to address these properties.

Alicia Federico lives on Forestbrook Avenue across the street from a condemned house.

She says, "It would make it look nicer around here if the house was gone. If nobody lives in it I don't see the point in it being here."

Neighbors describe the house as an eyesore that has wild animals living inside.

They want something done.

She says, "It's not really safe. I have animals of my own and I really wouldn't like if a raccoon came over here and tried to attack my dog or anything."

Traditionally St. Joseph County hasn't demolished properties but they are using the house on Ida Street where several cats were found dead and alive as a test run.

County Commissioner Dave Thomas says, "So everyone in the county government is learning the mechanics of how to properly and legally condemn and demolish a property."

He says they've budgeted $100,000 for condemned houses and once the home on Ida Street is gone they will move on to phase two.

The county has a list of condemned homes that are arranged by priority and every time a new house is added .. it may move others already on the list closer or farther from demolition.

He says, "Certainly we're targeting more visible locations. Properties that are on major thoroughfares so that we can have a better impact on the communities that we serve."

He says the cost of tearing down a house is on a case by case basis so they don't know how many houses will be able to be addressed with the $100,000.

Commissioner Thomas points out that some houses are condemned for safety or other reasons so just because it's condemned doesn't necessarily mean it's eligible for demolition.

He says they hope to have several condemned homes on the list torn down by this fall.

Thomas is glad the county is able to expand services like this without any tax increases to people living in St. Joseph County.