By Frank Lewis
Scioto County picked up an additional $12,610 in unrequested funds to aid in the demolition of blighted properties.
On Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded more than $3.8 million in additional demolition grants to 87 Ohio counties. The additional grants were a reallocation of unrequested funds from the “Ohio Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward Program.”
“The ‘Ohio Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward Program’ has been successful in helping the many Ohioans who were victims of neighborhood blight caused by the foreclosure crisis,” DeWine said. “By demolishing abandoned, blighted homes, we have been making a real effort to help stabilize neighborhoods and remove public safety hazards. I am pleased to make these additional funds available so counties can demolish additional structures.”
The “Ohio Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward Program” helps stabilize and improve communities by removing blighted and abandoned homes with funds from the national mortgage settlement reached in 2012. The demolition program requires that a lead entity, such as a land bank or local government, apply for the funds on behalf of each county in Ohio.
“It’s the Moving Ohio Forward program is a program the demolishes unsightly homes that have been condemned by the county or the village of New Boston,” Jen Smith, grant coordinator over the demolition program for the county, said. “Mostly we have focused on the west side because that was our target area. So it was West Portsmouth and the village of New Boston.”
DeWine designated $75 million of Ohio’s settlement share for the demolition program, allocating funds to each of Ohio’s 88 counties based upon the percentage of foreclosures that occurred in that county between 2008 and 2010, the period of the settlement. In Phase One of the grants, counties were required to provide matching funds for any grant above $500,000. However, several counties did not apply for their full allocation, leaving $3,820,826 in unrequested funds.
“It goes through the process of being condemned - the Health Department condemns ours, and the village of New Boston condemns theirs,” Smith said. “Then when we go through that process then we’re allowed to tear those houses down.”
Smith said if the owner of the property pays the lien on their property, the money designated for the demolition of that particular property goes back into a fund which the county can use to do more such projects in the future.
“Basically what it is, is the Neighborhood Stabilization program we had before,” Smith said. “It’s just called something different. It is just to help tear down houses that are vacant or are burned. Those are the ones we typically look for - the ones that have been empty forever - some of them have had fire damage.”
For Phase Two grants, DeWine has reallocated the unrequested funds based upon the same formula as the original allocations, with each county receiving a minimum of $7,800 for the demolition of at least one more blighted structure. Counties that did not use their full allocation in Phase One of the grants were given the opportunity to request funds from their unused allocation to fund specific demolition projects. Warren County was the only county that declined additional grant funding.
DeWine said counties would have until September 30, 2014 to use the Phase Two grant funds, and no matching funds will be required to utilize the Phase Two grants. Counties have until May 31, 2014, to use the Phase One grant funds. A decision on unused grant funds from Phase One would be made after that time.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.