Demo dollars

WARREN Thirteen of the 17 land banks in Ohio, including one in Trumbull County, are competing for a slice of $50 million being offered to demolish derelict homes.

Trumbull’s land bank is eligible for $8.5 million of the “Hardest Hit” funds, but it’s unlikely to get that much; the Ohio Housing Finance Agency has been confronted with more than $109 million in requests by agencies wanting to rid their communities of the most gnarly homes.

Still, the county is guaranteed at least $500,000 under rules of the program: land banks with applications that pass muster in counties with a population lower than 250,000 will receive the minimum half-million dollars. The amount jumps to $2 million with counties between 250,000 and 500,000 residents; and $5 million for counties with a population more than 500,000.

”For smaller counties, we have a very robust pipeline,” said Matt Martin, director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership. ”We submitted our application with more than 300 properties in the pipeline for demolition.”

”I think we should be getting awarded in the scale of medium-size counties,” said Martin.

The Hardest Hit Fund was created in 2007 to help Washington, D.C., and the 18 states hardest hit by the housing crisis. The program provides about $7.6 billion to develop local programs to help struggling homeowners. In Ohio, $60 million has been set aside to demolish abandoned and vacant homes.

Up to $50 million will be awarded in the first round to be announced Feb. 28. The remaining $10 million is expected to be released later this year.

The Trumbull County land bank has identified 11 target areas that include 311 properties in Trumbull County where the federal dollars are planned to be used. Ten areas totaling 275 properties are in Warren. Another 36 properties comprising the 11th target area are located in Girard.

In Warren, the area most in need of help runs from Highland Avenue S.W. west, a few blocks past Nevada Avenue S.W. between West Market Street and Palmyra and Risher roads. There are 61 homes in the land bank pipeline in this neighborhood.

That means the targeted homes have had the foreclosure process started, but are not yet part of the land bank’s inventory. They are in the pipeline to become part of the land bank, however, as with all foreclosures, if a lien holder is willing to pay the outstanding taxes, he or she may stake claim to the property.

There are no matching dollars needed for Hardest Hit, but the land bank must own the property to have the home demolished.

Each demolition ”manifests as a five-year forgivable mortgage,” which includes asbestos assessment and removal, demolition and site clearing, and some post-demolition work like grading and seeding, and in some cases, community gardens and passive park space, Martin said.

Included in TNP’s grant application is a request to hasten the five-year period by letting the group put the property into its side lot program. That would let TNP transfer the land at a maximum cost of $500 without the five-year wait to adjacent homeowners who, in many cases, have maintained the property.

Arlyne Alston, Ohio House Finance Agency director of communications and marketing, said so far the agency has distributed more than $200 million of the Hardest Hit funds, which has been renamed at the state level to “Save the Dream Ohio,” on a variety of programs designed to help homeowners stay in their homes.

The housing programs include rescue payments to help homeowners become current on their mortgages; mortgage payment assistance, which helps homeowners make their payment for up to 18 months, but they must prove some sort of financial hardship; a mortgage principal reduction program; lien elimination; and retention and transition assistance.