TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - The Ohio attorney general, along with Lucas County leaders, held a press conference Thursday morning to discuss a multimillion dollar program to help in the "Fight against Blight" in the Glass City, as well as across the state. Attorney General Mike DeWine addressed efforts in improving neighborhoods by tearing down vacant, abandoned homes.
DeWine joined Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, Mayor Mike Bell and several other Lucas County officials Thursday at the demolition of an abandoned house made possible by a grant from his Demolition Grant Program. The property at 927 Brewster St. in central Toledo is one of many properties in Ohio that have been demolished through efforts by local communities and the Attorney General's Demolition Grant Program.
"The city of Toledo and Lucas County have been proactive leaders in taking back their communities from the rot and blight caused by abandoned houses," said DeWine. "As we mark the one-year anniversary of the National Mortgage Settlement, I am pleased that so many communities across Ohio have taken advantage of the Demolition Grant Program."
DeWine created the Demolition Grant Program in 2012 to help stabilize and improve communities by removing neglected and abandoned homes with funds from the national mortgage settlement reached in February 2012. While an exact total of abandoned homes is not available, conservative estimates place the number of vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio in need of immediate demolition at 100,000.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office made $75 million from the settlement available statewide for demolition grants. Lucas County received its full allocation of $3,674,822. Through a local match, the county is working with nearly $7 million to tear down around 900 vacant homes in the county, mainly in the city of Toledo. The city has torn down 340 vacant structures since August 2012 and plans to reach 900 by the end of 2013.
"By smartly maximizing local resources with funds from the national foreclosure settlement, the Demolition Grant Program can help remedy a significant portion of the damage caused to Ohio neighborhoods and property owners by the foreclosure crisis," said DeWine.
DeWine says he will continue to work with counties around Ohio to highlight the importance of this program and as other allocations are made in future grant periods. DeWine says he is glad he made the decision to help communities deal with the demolition of vacant homes, and provide residents living in neighborhoods affected by the foreclosure crisis a boost and reason to stay.
"After seeing neighborhoods like this with homes like this, that we wanted to put the great bulk of that money towards helping the cities and the counties, the local land bank, to demolish these homes," said DeWine.
Tearing down houses answers the prayers of Pastor Mark Cunningham with St. Robert's Memorial United Church on Hawley Street in north Toledo.
"It's really been an eyesore for kids going by. It's been a concern for us," said Cunningham.
The pastor says that land would make a good place to build a new church and he believes the program to tear down hundreds of vacant homes in the county will bring relief to those who are trying to maintain their homes.
"We're known as a red zone down here because of the houses and the way things are down here, so it's hard to get insurance and things of that nature," explained Cunningham.
Half of the nearly $7 million program is being paid for through money allocated from the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
"These properties are not doing any good for anyone. These are vacant, abandoned structures that have been forgotten for, which there is no market solution," explained Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz.
City officials are confident the remainder of structures designated for demolition will be torn down before the end of the year.
"Really what it demonstrates is what we can do when we put a partnership together. This is about the safety of our community. It is about issues of value," said Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.
The structures have caused major safety concerns, which is one of many reasons to tear them down.
"Make sure that people who choose to live here have a safe place to live, and children who want to go across the street and play will have a safe place to play," said Toledo City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson.