Franklin program gets houses back on market

Derelict properties are back on the market through a program by way of a nonprofit created and funded by the City of Franklin.

Since 2017, the Franklin Development Corporation has facilitated the redevelopment of six single-family houses, a former hotel site and two ongoing renovation projects.

Each of the properties had thousands owed in back taxes and had not sold at the county’s tax sales, where investors can purchase properties for the taxes owed, said Krista Linke, Franklin’s community development director.

Some of the properties had been empty for decades, while others had been occupied nuisance properties that created code and law enforcement headaches, Linke said.

In addition to unpaid property taxes, the run-down houses had other liens on them for violations such as unmowed grass.

With the development corporation’s intervention, properties that were a drain on city resources have become a boon, Linke said.

The program is a collaboration between the city and Johnson County, as the county transfers properties to the city for future redevelopment.

State law allows the county to forgive back taxes and donate the properties to the city to get the properties back on the tax rolls.

Two homes have been fully renovated, and four others are in the process of being renovated, or renovations will begin in the near future.

Each of the houses were purchased with city funds or interest income — several for as little as $6,000 — at tax sales. One of the houses was purchased for $17,000 from an individual who backed out of a house-flipping project, Linke said.

The interest income is generated through low-interest loans that the city issues to homeowners, she said.

Each year, the development corporation accepts proposals for residential facade projects, and provides grants for downtown businesses to complete facade projects.

Each house goes through a request for proposals process, and the best proposal for the property is chosen, Linke said.

That process has brought several older homes in the low-$200,000 price range back on the market, she said.

Each low-cost home that goes back on the market fills a need, as homes at that price point are rarely on the market in Johnson County.

The program has also resulted in several houses that had been converted to apartments returning to the market as single-family homes, Linke said.

One of those converted homes, at 544 W. Jefferson Street, is under construction now, after taxes went unpaid for 19 years. With several other properties along Jefferson Street in disrepair, the renovation is hoped to spark others, she said.

Work will also begin soon on a small single-family home at 280 Circle Drive, which is being renovated through a collaboration with Franklin Heritage, after being vacant for 15 years due to more than $57,000 in back taxes and liens, Linke said.

Once the house is finished, it is expected to be worth about $150,000.

The money collected on that sale will then be used to renovate 650 Hurricane Street, a house that is expected to need extensive work.

Aside from the single-family home projects, the development corporation also worked to redevelop the old Red Carpet Inn at Interstate 65. The nuisance hotel was transferred to the city and then demolished to make way for new businesses.

In the past few years, the parcel was separated into several smaller properties and is now home to two hotels, a Starbucks, a Culver’s and empty lots ready for development. Prior to the project, the site had an assessed value of $3 million, with thousands in back taxes. Now, it is assessed at $15 million with all taxes paid, Linke said.

Two vacant lots on Cincinnati Street and Johnson Avenue were also sold to adjoining home owners through the program.