U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently applauded the U.S. Department of the Treasury's decision to approve the Ohio Housing Finance Agency's proposal to use $60 million of the state's nearly $375 million remaining Hardest Hit Funds (HHF) to demolish vacant and abandoned properties. Brown, a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, helped ensure Ohio received $570 million in HHF in 2010.
A county must have established a land bank to apply for these new funds.
Locally, Huron County cannot apply because it has not created a land bank.
However, Erie County does have a recently-established land bank.
"We are definintely going to apply," said Scott Schell, executive director of the Erie County land bank.
"Each county will have to work with community partners and entities to develop a strategic plan," Schell said, adding this plan will indicate potential properties to demolish.
"We'll look at the number of houses," Schell said, before deciding on the amount of funding Erie County will apply for.
The treasury's decision comes less than three weeks after Brown wrote to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urging the Treasury Department to provide Ohio communities with the resources necessary to address blighted properties.
The announcement "is a critical step forward in rebuilding neighborhoods devastated by the housing crisis," Brown said. "This is great news for the many Ohio communities that 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."
"This decision will balance the important needs of housing counseling and foreclosure prevention resources with the need to demolish vacant and abandoned homes. This will go a long way toward stabilizing Ohio neighborhoods, and I will continue to work with the administration, my colleagues in the Senate, and local stakeholders to find more resources for demolition."
The new Neighborhood Initiative Program will be available in up to 16 Ohio counties with established land banks. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) announced that it will issue a request for proposals from land banks in the coming months and anticipates that the program will begin in early 2014. OHFA estimates that the average amount of assistance will be $12,000 per property, resulting in the demolition of about 5,000 vacant or abandoned homes.