Housing group has big plans for 2014

WARREN – Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership plans to continue to lead the effort to have abandoned and rundown properties demolished, to renovate others, and to help neighborhood groups manage community gardens in 2014.

The nearly 4-year-old nonprofit organization’s goals for the new year include informing city residents about the results of a property inventory conducted in 2013 with the help of a $356,964 U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant that was awarded to the city in 2011. TNP used part of the money to inventory the city’s 2,000 vacant residential properties and 5,000 vacant lots.

“We’ve completed the inventory and now we plan to hold a series of neighborhood meetings to tell residents what we found,” Matt Martin, executive director of TNP, said. “The final report has not been completed. We are planning to have the first meetings sometime this spring.”

TNP hopes to establish, in partnership with the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, development plans in each of the neighborhoods.

“We will use the information from the inventory to determine which houses should be demolished and which ones may be sold,” Martin said.

TNP hopes to have 200 homes in Trumbull county torn down, primarily using money from Hardest Hit funds. The deadline for the Hardest Hit Fund application is in February.

The Ohio Finance Agency agreed to allow 16 counties with established landbanks to use $60 million of the $570 million the state received in 2010 from the Obama Administration for foreclosure prevention programs to do demolitions.

“We are hoping to receive several million dollars from the Hardest Hit funds,” Martin said.

TNP will encourage the addition of three new community gardens throughout the city under the Garden Resources of Warren program. It is directly in charge of three community gardens at the former Roosevelt, Dickey and Garfield schools. There are six additional gardens at different locations throughout the city.

“We try to help residents to manage the gardens by helping getting the installation of waterlines and helping the gardeners in the growing process,” Martin said of TNP’s efforts.

The program wants to be involved with the selling of 50 homes that are renovated or are, by the sales contract, will be renovated. It wants at least half of the properties to be owner-occupied.

There were 29 renovated properties sold in 2013.

“Since entering into contract with the Trumbull County Landbank in 2013, TNP has sold more than $200,000 in residential property and has leveraged an additional $325,000 in private investment toward rehabilitation.

Linsey Goldberg and her boyfriend, Dustin Garcia, were looking to move from a one bedroom apartment in a two-family house when they discovered a landbank home on Kenmore Avenue and purchased it from TNP in November for just more than $12,000.

“It was an early Christmas present,” Goldberg said. “We were not looking to buy a house, but one day, as we were driving to my father’s house, we saw the for sale sign and called TNP to ask about it.”

They were told that house had been abandoned for two to five years.

“It mainly needed some mold removed, a renovation of the bathroom, a lot of cleaning, painting and tender loving care,” she said. “We also had to put in a hot water tank.”

The couple needs to put new roofs on the house and garage, and they plan to paint the home’s exterior in the spring. They have six months to complete the work.

Usually, TNP requires potential property owners to have enough escrow for the necessary repairs of the property. It estimated the home needed between $12,000 and $15,000 worth of work done, which would have been in addition to the $10,000 asking price for the property.

“My father works in construction, so we were able to negotiate the escrow down to $2,000,” she said.

The landbank has 300 properties in its inventory, with more than 200 being side lots.

TNP, through its contract with the county’s land bank, during 2013 sold more than 150 side lots.

Martin said the agency is working to establish a Community Housing Development Organization partnership with Warren during 2014.

“Our goal is to help it to reduce its inventory of homes and empty lots,” Martin said.