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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Republican candidate for mayor Jim Merritt is pouncing on a report that some supposedly rehabbed houses are still dumps.

The Indianapolis Star identified more than a dozen homes which Mayor Joe Hogsett had pronounced “transformed,” but which were unlivable on the inside, with problems like no electricity, no running water, or giant puddles in the basement. Hogsett’s office has said code inspectors don’t have the right to poke around inside someone’s house.

Merritt says health inspectors do have that right. He says he’d instruct code enforcement officers to coordinate with health inspectors, police, and neighborhood organizations, and to be more aggressive in referring cases to the health department. He says exterior problems like a hole in the roof “should be a clue” that there may be serious issues inside aswell.

Merritt says he called the health department himself about the southeastside home where he held a news conference, and says staffers there agreed the conditions there would qualify as a health emergency.

Merritt says the homeowner complained to the health department herself without action, but he pins the blame not on health officials but on Hogsett, his opponent in November. He charges Hogsett was in too much of a hurry to be able to claim 2,500 rehabbed homes, and didn’t pay adequate attention to whether those homes were indeed livable.

Hogsett campaign spokesman Heather Sager contends Merritt helped to create the problems he’s now criticizing Hogsett for, through his votes in the state Senate. She accuses Merritt of siding consistently with landlords and against tenants, with votes for bills banning local rent-control ordinances, allowing landlords to pass along city fees as part of the rent bill, and restricting the use of emotional support animals.

Republican nominee for mayor Jim Merritt (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)