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Economy and Business

Ohio shifts $60 million from foreclosure prevention to demolition
Treasury OK's the money move

Jim Rokakis says more demolition will save other homes
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Ohio has been approved for $60 million to expand demolition of  vacant houses.

The U.S. Treasury Department gave the nod to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to use part of the state’s $375 million “Hardest Hit Funds” to tear down blighted properties.

Among those praising the news is Jim Rokakis, director of the Thriving Communities Institute and engineer of Ohio's first county land bank.  He says this all began nearly two years ago, when community groups, housing advocates and congressional representatives met with Treasury officials about the foreclosure crisis.

LISTEN: Rokakis on demolition needs

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“With the collapse of Frannie and Freddie, the U.S government now backstops nine out of 10 mortgages.  And we saw a clear connection between vacant properties and increased foreclosures.  Our argument to them was, “Help us find money to take down some of these vacant properties, and we think we can bring down the foreclosure rate.” So if you have to spend $20,000 to take down two houses. But it saves you from having to guarantee a mortgage of $150,000, that’s a good deal.”

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency figures that, when the new demolition initiative begins next year, $2,000 will be available per property. That means 5,000 empty and foreclosed homes will be razed.


Listener Comments:

Local, Handicapped Family is struggling to live in a small, "fourth Rate" house. Please help us find a regular sized home that we can Finish and
live in instead of being torn down.

Posted by: Gary Cook (Canton, Ohio) on February 24, 2014 8:02AM
I used to share the sentiments of Mr Schmiitz. His idea might work in a high demand market. In places like
Toledo we can't even give away a newly constructed in fill home in many of our most challenged neighborhoods. We have so many folks trying to hang on but who find it impossible to invest anything when the home next door is falling in on itself.

Home owners in such neighborhoods have no chance and no hope until we can get control of the blighted and abandoned home problem. There are no urban in fill developers in these neighborhoods. Helping to rework a mortgage on a block like that becomes a sad joke without a focus on real obstacles to investment.

Posted by: Mike Beazley (Toledo) on August 25, 2013 6:08AM
A terrible idea. An empty lot won't make a delinquent mortgage current. Perhaps cause and effect are being confused.

Instead, give these homes to people who have been foreclosed upon already. Or to disabled veterans. Or to non-profits to set up day care centers or after school programs. Anything but tear them down. Spend the money to fixed up the schools instead.

In Cleveland my parent had trouble selling the house I grew up in for $50,000, even though somebody can get a mortgage today for $250/month. Meanwhile lesser homes were renting for $500-700/month.

If a house is truly beyond habitability, then an urban infill developer can spend their own $2000 for demolition after they acquire the lot and get a permit to build and deliver something else.

Make the changes needed for people to want to live in these neighborhoods again.

Posted by: Ray Schmitz (New York, NY) on August 24, 2013 11:08AM
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