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Rehab Activity Picking up Steam on Near East Side

Brent Warren Brent Warren Rehab Activity Picking up Steam on Near East SideMural by Clint Davidson. Photo by Walker Evans.
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Neighborhood leaders and city officials are cautiously optimistic about a recent uptick in rehab activity on the Near East Side. John Turner, Administrator of the city’s Land Redevelopment Office, said that 23 homes — all vacant and in need of serious work when they were bought from the city’s land bank — are currently in the process of being renovated in the neighborhood.

“There is a lot going on right now in the area,” said Turner, “a lot of rehabs in progress and a couple that have just been completed, so we’re pretty excited.”

Land Bank staff track all of the homes that they sell, following up with the new owners to make sure renovations are happening in a timely manner. Turner said that half of the 12 Near East Side homes renovated in 2015 have been sold, and of four recently-completed houses, two are in contract and one sold in February for $234,000.

Estaban Saldarriaga of Eye Homes has renovated and sold five homes in the neighborhood over the past two years, including two land bank properties. His company is currently renovating an additional five area homes — all of which were previously vacant — and expects each of those to sell quickly.

“They’ve been selling within the next day or two after we put them on the market, for full price,” he said, adding that “these are not conventional rehabs… we put in new electrical, HVAC, plumbing, we have a team of contractors that are getting good at bringing these distressed properties back to life.”

Kathleen Bailey, chair of the Near East Area Commission, agreed that the pace of rehabs in the neighborhood seems to be picking up recently, and said that the work being done is generally of a high quality.

“We talk to the people who are purchasing properties,” she said. “It does us no good if it’s not done well.”

With many of the newly-renovated homes fetching prices well north of $200,000, Bailey acknowledged that there are concerns about affordability, although she stressed that the neighborhood has an abundance of subsidized low-income housing.

“You want development to come, that’s the whole point of the commission, and of organizing to get the neighborhood to develop,” said Bailey. However, she noted that progress is a double-edged sword, saying that the neighborhood has had a hard time getting more reasonably-priced homes on the market for individuals and families that don’t have a low enough income to qualify for subsidies.

“That’s the big hole — housing for regular neighbors who maybe can’t afford a $250,000 house, but if they do get a house, they’ll take care of it,” she added. “That’s what you had in the neighborhood that used to be here, before the freeways, and that’s what we want to get back to.”

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