By Tim Vandenack, Truth Staff

GOSHEN -- That rundown old house down the street could finally get a date with the renovator or a wrecking ball, at least if housing officials get a hoped-for funding injection.

To deal with aging and decrepit homes in Elkhart and Goshen, officials from the two cities and La Casa of Goshen plan to vie for a federal grant of $5 million or more to help them rehab or tear down such properties. The funds would come through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, complementing $2.2 million Elkhart has already received.

Larry Gautsche, president of La Casa, which is spearheading the effort, said the focus, if additional funding is approved, would be on renovating targeted properties. Some, though, would likely be demolished. The federal program, one of many stimulus plans meant to spur the weak economy, aims to help communities contend with abandoned and foreclosed properties, even more of a potential issue now given high unemployment and the economic downturn.

Elkhart Community Development Manager Crystal Welch views the effort as a means of creating "holistic" neighborhoods with representation from varied professional and economic classes.

She said the funds her city already received would be used to renovate 15 homes, working with La Casa, and build six to 10 new ones, working with Habitat for Humanity and the private sector. Around 50 homes would be demolished, with 40 "shovel ready" lots created for development when the economy and housing demand rebound.

Goshen had vied for Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding in an earlier application round, but its request was turned down, according to officials from that city.

The deadline for the current funding round is July 15.

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