Officials to add to funds for demolition

By David Skolnick


City officials will increase Youngstown’s $775,236 budget to demolish vacant structures this year by at least $129,161.

The city also could use an additional $50,058 for property demolition.

Those additional dollars are from unused federal Community Development Block Grant funds and profits the city made on the sale of two houses it rehabilitated under a federal program.

On top of that, the city almost definitely will get a waiver from a federal agency to use $722,246 in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds for demolition work this year, said Bill D’Avignon, Youngstown Community Development Agency director. Without the waiver from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city could only use $109,628 from that NSP grant for demolition, he said.

With NSP funding expected to end after this year and continued cuts in CDBG money, the city could be scrambling next year to find money for demolition.

“Yes, very much so,” Mayor Jay Williams said when asked if money for demolition is an uncertainty next year.

Of the $1.54 million spent last year by the city for demolitions, $814,000 came from NSP.

Of the current $775,236 for 2011 demolitions, $311,155 comes from NSP. That doesn’t include the additional $722,246 the city expects to get from this round of NSP funding for demolition.

The financially strapped city, which used $1 million from its general fund annually in 2006 and 2007 for demolition projects, doesn’t have that amount of money to spend in the foreseeable future, Williams said.

The city has demolished about 2,400 structures since 2006, he said.

Another issue, D’Avignon said, is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started enforcing a policy at the beginning of the year requiring cities using federal money for demolition to test for asbestos on every structure it intends to take down.

That process is expensive and doubles the cost of a typical demolition from $3,500 to $7,000 each, D’Avignon said.

City council’s CDA committee met Monday to discuss spending $75,161 the city made through the sale of two houses it rehabilitated as part of the NSP program on demolition projects. The committee also plans to transfer $54,000 in unused CDBG money for commercial demolition work.

Council members are weighing whether to use $50,058 in additional unused CDBG money for more demolition work or for road resurfacing. A decision is expected shortly, city council members said.

There is a cap of 10 percent for demolition projects from the $1,096,328 the city is receiving from HUD in stabilization program money, D’Avignon said. But the city applied for a waiver from HUD to increase the percentage to 66 percent, or $722,246, he said.

“We haven’t received official word, but we’ve been told unofficially that the 10 percent” maximum provision will be waived, D’Avignon said. He added he’s 100 percent sure the city will receive the waiver, and should get the official word in a few days.

Also Monday, council heard from D’Avignon and Presley Gillespie, executive director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., about transferring $315,966.67 in CDBG money to a new program to provide no- interest loans through YNDC to those wanting to buy and move into an existing home in the city.

Each qualified person would need to earn at least 80 percent of their new neighborhood’s median income to qualify for a loan, Gillespie said.

The money comes from a dormant account intended to help provide financial assistance for low- to moderate-income families to buy new houses.

Gillespie said he’s had preliminary conversations with banks, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and local foundations that could increase the amount available to about $1.4 million.

“There’s no market for new housing,” he said. “We’ve looked at where houses are being sold. We’ll focus on those areas.”

Those areas are primarily on the city’s West and North sides, he said.

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