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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Demolition of more than 20 blighted or abandoned homes is expected to be underway in the next 18 months in Ottawa County thanks to a collaborative effort with the state attorney general’s office.

“It will be exciting. I think it will make such a difference for the community,” said Stephanie Lowe, director of the Ottawa County Housing Board.

The board worked in conjunction with Ottawa County Commissioners and the Ottawa Regional Planning Commission to get a $222,000 Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant through Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office and will administer the local program.

Housing Board President Trish McCartney of Port Clinton is to meet with commissioners to discuss the grant monies approved in early July and get their input on the project course.

“Our goal is to do two demolitions a month, starting in August,” Lowe said. She knows meeting the goal will require putting pressure on state officials for the signed contract but said she is confident the timeline can be achieved.

The average cost to tear down a single-family home is about $10,000, Lowe said. Given that figure, the grant might easily enable destruction of 22 dilapidated properties.

The funds are Ottawa County’s allocation from a suit settled by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and five mortgage lenders, explained Todd Bickley, director of the Ottawa Regional Planning Commission.

The Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program stems from a state and federal settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage services — Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup, Inc., and Ally Financial, Inc. (formerly GMAC) — over foreclosure abuses and fraud, and unacceptable mortgage practices.

Eighty Ohio counties submitted funding applications for the $75 million available funds.

The share available to each county was based on its foreclosure filings between 2008 and 2011.

Citing economic hardships facing local governments, the state did not require a match for up to the first $500,000 allocated to each county.

As part of the local application process, Bickley contacted officials in townships, cities and village across the county, asking them to identify properties in dire need of removal.

Those who responded included Allen, Bay, Catawba, Erie and Portage townships, the villages of Rocky Ridge and Oak Harbor and the city of Port Clinton.

In all, those towns identified 45 properties, Lowe said. The building sites must pass a number of criteria including the home is residential, vacant, and free of liens to begin with, she explained. Port Clinton topped the list of submissions with a total of 11 suggested properties.

Municipal officials are anxious to find out which properties will be torn down, Lowe added, noting she has received several inquiries since the property list was created.

She hopes to send out an update letter in the days following talks with the commissioners and state officials.

In the meantime, the housing board has begun the pre-selection process for demolition contractors.  Project specifications have been sent out to about 30 contractors. So far, between five and seven have responded, according to Lowe.

What happens to the properties after demolition will also be discussed.

There are a variety of options, according to Lowe. “Some of those vacant lands could become green spaces and others readied for redevelopment,” she said. Or, the opportunity could also exist for neighbors to possibly buy the lands to expand their lots.

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