By Ed Runyan
Though it sounds odd that the Trumbull County Treasurer’s Office, a government body, is preparing to foreclose on properties owned by Sunshine Inc., a quasi-government body, that is the case.
County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa confirmed Monday that he informed Anthony Iannucci, director of Sunshine, that he’ll have foreclosures filed on 87 Sunshine homes in the next three months unless Sunshine makes arrangements to start paying the $187,311 it owes in back property taxes and fees.
Some of the fees are as far behind as four years. A similar thing happened about a decade ago, before Iannucci became director. Sunshine eventually got current by getting on a payment plan.
Sunshine Inc. is a quasi- governmental body because it is organized as a private, nonprofit organization but receives much of its funding from the federal government.
Iannucci also runs another quasi-governmental entity called Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp., which handles many economic-development activities on behalf of the city of Warren.
Sunshine’s purpose is to help provide affordable housing to people of low to moderate incomes in Trumbull County, and the reason Sunshine has gotten so far behind on its taxes is because of the housing crash and the recession, Iannucci said.
Iannucci said Sunshine has never let the mortgages on its 61 homes that have them to go unpaid, and it plans to sell some of its homes to raise the money to get current on the taxes.
Iannucci, who called the current situation a “cash-flow problem,” said he believes Sunshine and the county will work out a solution in coming weeks to avoid foreclosure.
Because it is in the business of buying and selling homes, Sunshine Inc. has experienced the same financial problems over the past five years as other corporations working in that business, Iannucci said.
“We were hit as hard as anybody,” Iannucci said. One difference between Sunshine Inc. and many of the banks, however, is that Sunshine Inc. is not “walking away” from any of its properties, Iannucci said.
Of the 87 homes owing taxes, 47 are rented, and 10 are for sale.
Iannucci notes that the federal HOME program that funds the work of Sunshine has reduced steadily the amount of money it provides for administrative costs over the years, and that is another reason Sunshine is having trouble with its bills.
Lamancusa said one concern related to the unpaid taxes is that there are four homes involved in which the resident is buying the house on land-contract and paying the taxes to Sunshine, but the taxes are not being forwarded to the treasurer’s office.
Iannucci said the people in a land-contract with Sunshine don’t have to worry about their home going into foreclosure.
“The land-contract houses are a priority,” he said.
Iannucci said he believes the improving housing market and the arrival of spring will help Sunshine sell several of the homes it has on the market and help get the taxes paid.
Lamancusa said he and other officials will meet with Iannucci again this week to see what progress is being made.
He’s hopeful that Sunshine will agree to another repayment plan that pays down the debt along with current taxes over about five years.
“I’m trying to stop the foreclosure on the homes. I don’t want the residents to lose their homes,” Lamancusa said. “I look to have it resolved. I hope that’s what happens.”