The Ohio Legislature should support state Sen. Joe Schiavoni's resolution urging the U.S. Congress and the federal Department of the Treasury to allocate a portion of the Hardest Hit Fund for blighted property demolitions across Ohio. They should also consider using some of it for housing rehabilitation.
The Hardest Hit Fund, established in 2010, provides $570 million to Ohio for home foreclosure prevention. To date, $200 million has been used to help more than 11,000 Ohio families in mortgage distress, leaving approximately $374 million still available. Schiavoni, D-Boardman, would like to see 25 percent of that fund, or about $93.5 million, used for demolitions.
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency is drafting a proposal for the Treasury Department to request that the funds be used to demolish vacant properties. Along with the Treasury, members of Ohio's Congressional delegation have also proposed legislation to allow local municipalities and land banks to use Hardest Hit funds for demolitions.
There are more than 100,000 vacant, blighted properties across Ohio hampering the safety of many neighborhoods and decreasing the values of neighboring properties. Many structures have been known to attract illicit activities, such as drug use, gang violence and arson.
Warren has hundreds of such properties. Youngstown has even more. A strategic demolition program would improve the quality of life in both cities.
Without a companion rehabilitation program, by the time cities tear down their condemned houses, another batch of houses will fall into the condemned category. That's why Schiavoni's request should be expanded to include housing rehabs.