Warren should invest in TNP program

The house at 453 Vine St. N.E. in Warren’s Garden District is on the list of houses in the Trumbull County Land Bank. Through Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership’s Adopt-A-Home program, the house will be renovated with a private investment from local residents Bill and Jan Casey.

The house will then be sold by the land bank, officially called the Trumbull Land Reutilization Corp., to an owner-occupant for less than $30,000. The proceeds will then be used to adopt and renovate another house in the land bank.

The Caseys and TNP Director Matt Martin are aware of the real estate values in the Garden District. TNP operates the land bank for the county.

”We didn’t want to go to the studs on a renovation … we picked something in pretty decent shape, but would benefit from renovations and improvements,” Martin said.

”We are cognizant of local real estate values and feel it is important to invest within those parameters,” Bill Casey said. ”All the essentials will be in place, but the owners will still be able to put their own personality into the home.”

That’s a sharp contrast from how Sunshine Inc., a controversial nonprofit entity that has received millions of taxpayer dollars to help low-income residents become homeowners.

For example, Warren was awarded a $2 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant, including about $400,000 for housing rehabilitation. The city used Sunshine for the rehabs.

The agency managed to rehab just seven houses. All of them combined are worth a little more than $100,000, according to the Trumbull County auditor’s office appraisals.

In one case, Sunshine purchased a house at 194 Belmont for $27,150. It spent $72,000 rehabbing it, making the total investment almost $100,000.

Sunshine put it for sale for $35,900. The auditor appraises it at $16,300. Several real estate agents said the house would likely fetch little more than $20,000.

The house is now tax delinquent as Sunshine has failed to find a buyer. Having made many of these blunders, and others, Sunshine no longer has enough money to pay its taxes or loans it received from the city and county. Dozens of its properties are likely to fall into the land bank leaving TNP to deal with them.

The city should reconsider its relationship with Sunshine. It might be better to expand TNP’s role in Warren. So far, TNP has been a model of success; Sunshine has been a fail.