Rockford non-profit aims to save city tax dollars with donated home demolitions
ROCKFORD (WREX) -
There are nearly 4,000 vacant homes in Rockford, and some are creating problems for neighborhoods.
The city says it does what it can to demolish blighted structures, but that effort is now getting some help thanks to a nonprofit organization.
"[Blighted homes] are a detriment to the community, they reduce property values," said Rockford Corridor Improvement board member John Holmstrom, "They can become a place were crime is focused."
Holmstrom helped create the group Rockford Corridor Improvement. This non-profit organization partners with the city to take down dangerous, abandoned homes.
"Because there are a lot of complicated laws that deal with how a city can address and demolish abandoned houses, it's not easy just to go 'oh there's a terrible house, its become a drug den, I'm going to demolish it.' Well, there's a long process that cities have to go through in order to do that," Holmstrom said.
Before an empty house can be demolished in Rockford, it has to go through foreclosure, which takes City Council approval.
Normally, after that process is completed the city considers tearing down that structure. Each demolition costs roughly $7,000.
That's where Rockford Corridor Improvements steps in, taking over selected properties after they've been foreclosed on, using private donations for demolitions, potentially saving the city tax dollars.
And it's not just any empty house that Rockford Corridor Improvements picks. The group is focused on areas of the city near major traffic routes or where young students walk to and from school.
"There are 84 houses, boarded up houses within four blocks of Ellis and Lewis Lemon school." said Holmstrom.
Rockford Corridor Improvements has already taken 10 of those empty homes down.
Once vacant properties have been demolished, the next step is finding new owners.
"That might be the person who owns the land next door, maybe it is a church that needs additional parking," said Holmstrom, "Or a community garden or someone who actually wants to build a house, which would really be terrific."
It's a continuing effort to build a better Rockford.
The group has submitted its requests for 10 more demolition proposals that could be approved by city leaders in the next two weeks.