Youngstown and Warren mayors support the bill
By David Skolnick
Mayors in Youngstown and Warren support a bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, that would permit unused money from a federal program to go toward the demolition of vacant structures.
The bill, called the Neighborhood Safety Act, would allow local governments and land banks to have access to money in the $7.6 billion federal Hardest Hit Fund. The fund, created in 2010, provides money to those losing their houses to foreclosure.
Only 16 percent of that money has been given to those homeowners, according to a U.S. Treasury report.
In Ohio, about $170 million of the $570 million, about 30 percent, has been used, according to Portman’s office.
Portman’s proposal would allow communities and land banks to seek money for the Hardest Hit Fund through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the fund in the state.
“The housing market still hasn’t recovered from its collapse in 2008 and thousands of vacant properties throughout Ohio are stalling a much-needed rebound,” said Portman, a Republican. “Ohio’s communities have made some progress in demolishing abandoned properties, and this bill will provide them with needed additional resources to build upon those efforts.”
Three members of Congress from Ohio, two Democrats and a Republican, have introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House.
Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, a Democrat, said, “I’m 1,000 percent behind any effort to get more money from the federal government for demolition. It’s great news. Hopefully, [Portman] can accomplish this for every community in the state because it’s a huge issue. Demo is the No. 1 complaint I get.”
Youngstown has about 4,000 to 5,000 vacant structures, with 581 of them demolished so far this year. An additional 212 are planned to come down in the next couple of months.
There are about 1,000 vacant homes in Warren in need of demolition.
“The city of Warren enthusiastically supports the initiative of opening up the Hardest Hit Fund to aid in improving our property values and curing the plague of blight caused by dilapidated houses,” said Doug Franklin, its mayor, who is a Democrat.