Measure will help protect property values

When houses sit empty for long periods of time, they invite vandalism or worse problems. In addition, they reduce nearby property values and damage community pride.

Often, cities and towns would like to act on deteriorating properties, but the legal steps they must go through make the process painfully slow. That process might be moved along a little more quickly under a bill signed this month by Gov. Mike Pence.

The so-called “zombie home” law changes a state tax sale process pertaining to vacant homes that’s so complicated that homes often stay empty for years, according to supporters of the law.

Indiana was among the states hardest hit by urban blight following the housing crisis seven years ago. Indiana had 5,217 vacant homes at the end of January, according to housing data analyst RealtyTrac.

The new rules will allow code enforcement officials to declare properties vacant and speed up the selling process.

“Really, the bottom line is we have made a dramatic effort to allow the local government to be the catalyst to clean up neighborhoods,” said state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who sponsored the bill. “It makes it a quicker process and a cleaner process.”

Speeding up that process will allow communities to better maintain their housing inventory. It won’t make the effort so fast that property owners’ rights are abridged, but it will allow properties to be sold while they are still salvageable and before they become problems or eyesores and negatively affect the value of surrounding properties.

We commend the legislature for passing the bill and the governor for signing it. The measure will help maintain local property values and keep our communities attractive to potential new residents.

At issue

Abandoned houses negatively affect the value of nearby properties.

Our point

A bill signed this month by Gov. Mike Pence would allow communities to move more quickly in selling problem properties.