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Barlow targets vacant homes in latest code enforcement push

Payne Horning
This vacant home in Oswego, which the city acquired after it foreclosed, is the type of property Mayor Billy Barlow wants to restore with his proposed Blight Reduction Loan Program.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow is calling on the Oswego Common Council to approve what he says will be the city's most effective code enforcement measure to date - a tool that would target vacant houses. 

The 200 block of West 7th Street in Oswego a quaint neighborhood. The streets are lined with well-kept homes, making the house at 213 stand out like a sore thumb. the vacant property's cement steps are crumbling, the siding is rotting and a bright orange sign on the front window warns neighbors that it's a dangerous building.

Barlow says vacant properties like this which the city recently acquired after it foreclosed are problematic.

"This home really is just an eyesore that sticks out for the whole neighborhood," Barlow said. "It’s not pleasant to live next to, it affects everybody’s quality of life, but also for prospective residents – if they’re looking at a nearby home, they see this and it doesn’t send the right message either."

Barlow wants the Oswego Common Council to match a state grant to establish an $88,000 Blight Reduction Loan Program. The city would use the funds to hire a contractor who would repair properties cited for exterior code violations and bring them into compliance. The cost associated with the renovations would be charged to the property owner’s tax bill with a surcharge and interest. That payment would be put back into the blight fund for the next project.

"The city I believe can send the right message by holding banks accountable, holding absentee landlords and absentee property owners accountable and making sure their properties are well kept and not detracting from the quality of life of others," Barlow said. 

This is the latest development in Barlow's campaign to improve city neighborhoods since he took office in 2016. The council recently approved his request to increase fines for code violations and make permanent a tax exemption for residential property improvements.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.