BLUFORD — The Village of Bluford has secured a $30,000 grant to help pay for the demolition and renovation of abandoned properties.
The funding will allow the village to recoup some of its costs from completing four such projects last year. In addition, there may be funds to help pay for planned rehab projects this year, said Village President Michael Bullard.
This is the first time Bluford has received funding through the state's Abandoned Property Program, administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Bullard hopes to reapply again in the future as village officials seek to fix up additional residential properties.
In the past, the village has had to pay for all the rehab work on its own, which is very costly for a small town, Bullard said.
“We kind of hope to use this as like a revolving thing,” Bullard said of the APP grant, later adding, “We have historically stayed on top of (abandoned properties). It takes a lot of effort to do that.”
The Abandoned Property Program or APP uses funding in the Abandoned Residential Property Municipality Relief Fund to award grants to local governments. The funding is meant to help with costs incurred for the “securing, maintenance and demolition” of abandoned residential property, states a village news release.
APP funding is derived from foreclosure filing fees paid by lending institutions and collected by the county where the foreclosure is filed, the release states. It is not state funding.
An estimated 15 percent of the fees collected statewide are awarded as grants in the Southern Illinois region.
“So with really only 15 percent of those funds, we're elbowing each other to help make sure that our towns get the funds,” said State Rep. Terri Bryant.
Bryant wrote a letter of support for Bluford, which helped the village secure the grant. She said repairing these sites is important not only to maintain the value of surrounding properties but for safety as well.
“A lot of times you have these old dilapidated places, that's where the kids want to play,” Bryant said. “If you have an arsonist in the area or whatever, they tend to pick on those kind of properties. … So it helps with the safety of the community as well as beautifying the community.”
The four properties renovated in Bluford last year were at 211 W. Hickory, 605 E. North St., 1308 W. South Ave., and 1001 W. Fourth St.
Most of the sites required a complete demolition, Bullard said.
In a few cases, the owners signed the property over to the village because they couldn't afford to clean them up. In another case, a family had abandoned the property, Bullard said.
Demolishing old homes can be an emotional issue for families so village officials have to be cautious, Bullard said.
“You have a house that's dilapidated, that's somebody's mom and dad's house, and you've got to be careful how you approach them and talk to them about 'hey we need to fix it up or we need to have it razed, torn down,'” Bullard said. “It's hard for people to recognize that in a family.”
Bullard praised Bryant for her support on this project.
“We're extremely fortunate to have somebody like Terri Bryant who's very willing to step up and assist the residents in our community and maintain the beauty and the safety of our community,” Bullard said.