Mahoning Valley gets $7.5M to raze 300 vacant homes

By David Skolnick


About $7.5 million is coming to the land banks of Mahoning and Trumbull counties to demolish vacant homes primarily in Youngstown and Warren.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency announced the Neighborhood Initiative Program grant Friday. The money comes from $60 million the state received through the federal Hardest Hit Fund, originally intended to provide money to those losing their homes to foreclosure.

The money would pay to demolish at least 171 structures in Mahoning County, which received $4,266,250, and at least 129 in Trumbull County, which received $3,221,250.

That’s at a maximum cost of $25,000 per structure.

But Deb Flora, executive director of the Mahoning County Land Bank, said her expectation is to go “well beyond” the 171 demolitions with the money from NIP.

Most demolitions don’t cost $25,000, but there are additional expenses involved with this program, she said.

Land banks must buy the homes by obtaining titles, which could also mean paying some delinquent taxes or liens, as well as asbestos testing and abatement — if the latter is needed — and work to make it a green-space after the structure is demolished, Flora said.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency said the estimated average amount for each housing demolition is $12,000.

The money is going to “tipping-point neighborhoods,” as part of this program, Flora said.

“Those are neighborhoods with strengths and weaknesses, with this money hopefully stabilizing them,” she said.

Most of the neighborhoods are in Youngstown including nearly the entire East Side, Crandall Park on the North Side, the Idora Neighborhood on the South Side, Cornersburg, Buckeye/Lansingville on the southeast side and portions of the West Side. Also on the list is most of Campbell, portions of Struthers, northern Boardman and eastern Austintown.

In Trumbull County, 10 of the neighborhoods are in Warren and one in Girard.

“This funding allows us to continue our effort to remediate blight in Warren and Trumbull County by demolishing vacant abandoned properties that plague our neighborhoods by reducing property values and diminishing the quality of life of our residents,” said Matt Martin, executive director of the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally said he was “very happy with the amount of money that was received. We have a lot of work to do. But the fact is we’ve got $4.2 million and we need to put that to work.”

The challenge, he said, is finding properties that can be sold to the county land bank for demolition.

McNally said the city will work to find money to demolish vacant houses in other parts of Youngstown. The Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership said it will seek additional funding through this program later this year for other ares of Trumbull County.

The Mahoning land bank sought property owners last month to contact the agency to donate those properties. The organization received about 100 applications with about 40 of them in the NIP-designated areas, Flora said.

It will take about a year for the land bank to obtain ownership of all the properties that are to be demolished, she said.

The demolition work must be done by Oct. 31, 2016.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland, said: “These demolition funds are a critical step forward in rebuilding Mahoning Valley neighborhoods devastated by the housing crisis. Our local communities need more resources to address the scourge of blighted properties that undermine surrounding property values, drain local resources, and threaten the safety and security of our neighborhoods.’’

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said the funding “is an important step in the recovery from the housing market collapse for struggling Ohio neighborhoods.”

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