Fighting blight

Landbank, TNP to push demolitions outside Warren

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership director Matt Martin stands next to a house that is being demolished on Hamilton Street SW, the 300th being razed in Warren. Martin said this house was put on the fast track for being taken down.

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership director Matt Martin stands next to a house that is being demolished on Hamilton Street SW, the 300th being razed in Warren. Martin said this house was put on the fast track for being taken down. Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple

WARREN — Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and the Trumbull County Landbank will be making a major push to expand the number and rate of demolitions outside Warren into 10 additional target areas throughout Trumbull County.

TNP demolished its 300th home on Friday using a portion of $12.7 million in grants it has received from the Ohio Housing Agency’s Neighborhood Initiative Program.

Since receiving its first NIP grant in 2014, TNP, representing the Trumbull County Landbank, has been given allocations for four additional grant amounts for the demolition of homes.

“They keep giving us more money because we are not only identifying properties, but also, with the help of Sam Lamancusa of the Trumbull County Treasurer’s Office and Dennis Watkins of the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office, taking possession of them through tax foreclosures and getting them knocked down,” Matt Martin, executive director of the TNP, said.

Trumbull County Landbank is one of the top three landbanks in Ohio.

The 300th house demolished using NIP funds was a two-story single family home at 1478 Hamilton St. SW, identified as an eyesore since its initial fire in 2013. There have been more fires at the house since.

“It has been a safety hazard,” Shawn Carvin, TNP’s Landbank program coordinator, said. “It could have been taken down much earlier, but someone kept paying its property taxes, so the treasurer’s office did not have the tax lien needed for landbank to take possession of it.”

Landbank took possession of the property on April 24.

“We fast tracked this to get an emergency demolition done,” Carvin said.

On Thursday, when TNP demolished its 299th property, an abandoned two-family house at 744 Roosevelt NW, neighbors cheered and expressed a sense of joy because they have fought for years for something to be done.

“We were outside dancing when the demolition equipment arrived on Wednesday, and we knew the house was coming down,” Tina Milner, who lives next to the property, said. “It has been empty for the entire 18 years I’ve lived here. I was told it was empty for seven years before I moved here.”

Milner and several other neighbors have kept a watchful eye on the property.

“We’ve had people going in to steal copper, the furnace, to sell and do drugs and for prostitution,” Milner said. “We’ve been working to keep people from going in and stripping the property. We also have been keeping the grass cut and the yard neat.”

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said having nearly 270 abandoned home torn down using NIP funds has gone a long way to making the city safer and has helped improve the property values of properties surrounding them.

“Taking down these blighted and abandoned properties is like removing cancers,” Franklin said.

Martin said the average cost of demolitions in Trumbull County has been $8,000, which is $1,000 less than the average cost in other Ohio communities.

“The volume of demolitions has worked to reduce our costs,” Martin said.

TNP previously worked with Trumbull County communities to demolish properties using Moving Ohio Forward grants, but those grants required communities to provide matching funds.

“The matching fund requirement limited the ability of some communities to participate,” Martin said. “NIP does not have a matching requirement.”

There will be a greater effort to tear down non-commercial properties in the county starting this year. About 10 percent of the 300 homes taken down by TNP were in areas outside Warren, Martin said.

“We were able to get a jump start in Warren, because TNP had already done an inventory of properties available for demolition when the NIP money became available,” Martin said. “We’ve now done a similar inventory in Niles, so we should be able to do more there and in other communities.”

“We are planning to do some serious demolition in other areas of the county through the end of this grant in 2019,” Martin said. “We are not going to ignore Warren, because there still is a need, but there will be significantly more demolitions outside of the city.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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