Trumbull County tore down more than 350 housing units before the Moving Ohio Forward grant program expired in December, but that doesn’t mean the razing will stop – the Trumbull County Land Bank has a $3.2 million federal grant to continue demolitions and implement greening programs.
Through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Program, the demolitions will go on, but unlike the state’s program, this time the funds can also be used on public greening projects, Matt Martin, director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, or TNP, said.
“We are still knee deep in the list of necessary demolitions,” Martin said on Sunday. “Replacing those properties with garden and park spaces is a huge tool for revitalizing space in the community.”
[A derelict house on Homewood Avenue S.E. is demolished – above. Tribune photo.]
Trumbull County spent $5,914 per demolition, which is about $2,000 less than the state average, and only eight of Ohio’s 88 counties tore down more housing units, according to a report released recently from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office on the Moving Ohio Forward program. Cuyahoga County demolished the most housing units, 3,449.
Most of those units razed locally were in Warren, Martin said.
“This grant money was a huge step toward our civic revitalization plan,” Martin said. “We reclaimed land, restored the properties for productive use and eliminated the worst of the worst (properties).”
The state used $75 million from a 2012 court settlement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices to “help alleviate issues caused by foreclosure,” in Ohio, according to a news release. TNP, which manages the county’s land bank, was responsible for disseminating the funds from DeWine’s office.
Local municipalities and the land bank contributed matching funds to raze the properties. Warren gave $500,000 of the $828,774 supplied locally, while other local contributions came mostly from the land bank and communities with properties razed under the program. Trumbull County’s award from the state was $1.3 million.
Mahoning County received $1.5 million from the state and pitched in another $1 million that was used to tear down 308 units at an average cost of $8,299.
In Ohio, in addition to the $75 million contributed by the state, counties contributed $44 million. The $119 million total was used to tear down 14,608 units at an average cost of $8,148.
“Those funds helped demolish vacant properties that scarred neighborhoods already hit hard by the economic downturn and that too often were magnets for drug use, vagrancy and other crimes,” DeWine said.
Because the local demolitions were facilitated in a timely manner, Martin said, the county received more funds in the second and third rounds of grant awards, money that would have went to other counties, but they did not act fast enough to receive the funds.
Martin credited the volume of homes razed and relationships with local construction companies for the lower than average price per housing unit.
Many of the once blighted properties were purchased by neighbors under the land bank’s side lot program, turned into pocket parks or gardens, Martin said.
TNP is funding a program to improve recently razed lots with Hardest Hit dollars. Through the Lots to Love program, up to $6,000 and technical assistance is available for public projects on eligible lots for groups with an idea and the time to attend a program workshop. Worskshops will be held at 6 p.m. March 9, 12, 17, 19 and 24 and focus on different areas of Warren.