The mortgage foreclosure crisis has affected many Ohio cities and towns, leaving behind the blight from desolate and deteriorating houses, which hinder their economic growth and recovery. To help affected communities, my office created a $75 million grant program to help pay for the demolition of run down and abandoned properties that are bringing down neighborhoods.
The Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program is funded through a state and federal settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage services over foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices.
The grant program has already helped hard-hit neighborhoods begin to heal:
Empty and ignored for eight years, a two-story eyesore in Newark - dubbed by neighbors as "the bird house" because it was so overrun by pigeons - was finally torn down.
A Richland County fair housing official expressed confidence that demolishing some of his area's blighted structures will help curb the rash of recent arson fires among Mansfield's vacant properties.
And, commissioners in Fayette County expect the clearing out of some dilapidated dwellings in New Hope will, like the county's current sewer system renovations, improve the community's quality of life.
No exact figure is available, but the number of vacant and abandoned properties in need of immediate demolition throughout Ohio is conservatively estimated to be around 100,000.
We encouraged lead entities such as land banks or local governments to apply for the grants on behalf of all Ohio counties. Total funding available to each county is based on the percentage of foreclosure filings in each county between 2008 and 2011 (the period of the settlement agreement) divided by the settlement amount of $75 million.
Last week I traveled to Youngstown to see the demolition program in action. It was great to watch an eyesore being torn down.
As I have said across the state, the real victims of the mortgage crisis are the people who live in these neighborhoods, who paid their mortgage and paid their taxes, but yet the house next door is abandoned and rundown.
These neighbors see the value of their house decline and their kids have to grow up in that environment. Let's get rid of the cancer, let's get these houses out, let's knock them down to rebuild our neighborhoods.
For information about the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program, visit www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov
(DeWine is Ohio's attorney general.)