At the end of this month, the state of Ohio hopes to ask the federal government to approve millions of dollars for demolishing abandoned homes. But two Cleveland city councilmen are now lobbying for some of that money to be used for something else: rehabilitating empty houses. ideastream’s Nick Castele explains.
In response to the foreclosure crisis, Ohio has been spending from a $570 million federal fund to help people pay off their mortgages. It’s called the Hardest-Hit Fund. The goal was to slow down the foreclosure rate and keep people in their homes.
There’s about $255 million left. Now the state is asking the federal government to set aside $60 million from that fund to knock down abandoned homes in cities like Cleveland.
Jim Rokakis with the Thriving Communities Institute is an advocate for clearing away dilapidated properties.
ROKAKIS: “There are thousands of units that will never be repopulated in cities like Cleveland, and Youngstown, and Dayton and Warren, and we have to find a way to take them down.”
Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed fears that vacant lots will stay that way, and no one will move back into his neighborhood.
He wants up to $12 million set aside from that fund used to rehabilitate some houses rather than knock them down. Councilman Jeff Johnson is joining him in the lobbying effort.
REED: “If we’re going to use that money to demo -- strategic demolition in our community, I’m all for it. But if we’re going to use that money to help keep people and create jobs as it relates to rehabbing, we should be for that, too.”
Reed does estimate, though, that as many as 90 percent of the abandoned homes in his ward do need to be demolished.
Cindy Flaherty is with the Ohio Home Financing Agency, which oversees the Hardest-Hit Fund. She says Reed’s request is news to her.
FLAHERTY: “The first we had heard about suggestions that this money be used for renovation was this week.”
Ohio applied to use these funds for demolition and was turned down in April. The state is more hopeful about this application.