February 27, 2015 [Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com]
More than 14,600 blighted homes around Ohio have been demolished during the past three years, thanks to $75 million from a national mortgage settlement, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Friday.
DeWine said his “Moving Ohio Forward” demolition grant program, which wrapped up last year, has helped to increase property values and eliminate houses used to deal drugs and commit other crimes. The cleared land is often transformed into parks or scooped up by neighbors to expand their yards.
“This program was vital, vital to our communities,” said Cleveland City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, chairman of the Cuyahoga Land Bank board, at a news conference with DeWine Friday morning.
Cuyahoga County received nearly $13 million — the most of any Ohio county — in the program and combined the cash with $11.3 million in local funding to tear down 3,449 structures, according to DeWine’s office. Many were near schools, churches, and social centers.
Ohio received about $330 million from the 2012 national mortgage settlement, which ended disputes with mortgage servicers accused of acting illegally in foreclosure proceedings. Most of Ohio’s share went straight to borrowers, in the form of loan alterations or cash payments.
DeWine’s office received $94 million of Ohio’s share. Besides demolition grants, the attorney general spent most of the rest on children services and public safety.
About 15,000 abandoned structures in Cuyahoga County are still being considered for demolition in the wake of the national foreclosure crisis, Brancatelli said.
While all of the $75 million from DeWine’s program has been used up, he said, Northeast Ohio officials have $50 million in bond money, as well as other revenue, to continue the teardowns.
Forty-eight states also shared in the $25 billion national mortgage settlement.
Ohio was one of five states to use part of their settlement money on demolitions, said Matt Lampke, DeWine’s mortgage foreclosure counsel. The four other states — Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky and Wisconsin — spent far less than Ohio did.
In Ohio, every organization that applied for a piece of the money had to specify how it might assist those affected or at risk because of the foreclosure crisis.