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Bill Would Help Ohio Cities Raze Vacant Homes

Ohio aims to target the issue of an estimated 100,000 dilapidated homes in the state.

Thu October 10, 2013 - Midwest Edition
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TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) Ohio’s big cities this year will raze hundreds of vacant homes that are a danger and a drag on neighborhoods, but it’s not enough to keep up with the backlog of empty buildings that number in the thousands.

A proposal in Congress backed by Ohio’s Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is aiming to speed up the work.

Portman has been meeting with mayors and big city officials this summer to tout a bill that would transfer $60 million left over from foreclosure relief funds to housing demolition in the state.

An estimated 100,000 homes in the state are dilapidated and should be torn down, according to The Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a land conservation based in suburban Cleveland.

Cities want to get rid of vacant buildings to stabilize property values, reduce crime, and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. Vacant buildings are convenient targets for arsonists and drug dealers.

City officials in Cleveland said last year that there are 8,500 houses ready to be razed. In Toledo, the city said 3,000 homes are in need of being torn down. Dayton plans to spend more than $5 million to demolish 475 abandoned structures this year in an effort to speed up the number of vacant houses and buildings being demolished.

Portman wants unspent money in a fund Congress created in 2010 to help states that have had the biggest decline in home prices to be freed up for home demolitions. U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge, David Joyce and Marcy Kaptur — all who represent parts of northern Ohio — also are behind the plan.

“This is a partnership, one place we can help, to improve home values, which is where the money started with,” Portman said while in Lima in July. “If you have houses like this in the neighborhood, it’s hard to see your home value go up.”

Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, thinks a bigger share of the money should go toward housing counseling and foreclosure prevention.

Lima Mayor David Berger said his city has 1,200 that are worthy of being demolished. The city normally spends about $150,000 a year to get rid of about 30 structures. Berger said the city would need more than $5 million needed just to deal with all of its abandoned properties.

“We just don’t have that,” he said.

Portman attended the demolition of a vacant home in Toledo that was cheered by neighbors on Friday.

Priscilla Zaborski, who lives next to the house, said she and her cousin who lives on the other side plan to buy the empty lot so that their children to have a larger yard.

“I’m happy about it because you get rodents and everything,” Zaborski said. “And it’s not safe.”

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