Cleveland, Cuyahoga County allocate $14 million for demolition of blighted homes, hope for federal match

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Cleveland, Cuyahoga County allocate $14 million for demolition of blighted homes, hope for federal match

March 16, 2012 [Peter Krouse,]

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland and Cuyahoga County expect to put up $14 million, a little more than previously estimated, in hopes of getting a matching amount for the demolition of blighted homes countywide.

The Cuyahoga land bank, the county prosecutor and the city of Cleveland sent a request to the Ohio attorney general’s office last week. They are seeking a portion of the money received by Ohio in a 49-state mortgage fraud settlement with major mortgage lenders.

The county could also see some federal dollars coming its way to battle the problem of abandoned homes. On Thursday, U.S. Reps. Steve LaTourette, a Republican, and Marcia Fudge, a Democrat, announced plans to propose legislation that would create a bond program to finance demolition of blighted buildings. A news conference is slated for Monday in Cleveland.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said last month that he is committing $75 million of Ohio’s $335 million share of the settlement to the razing of abandoned and blighted buildings throughout the state.

The land bank, created in 2009, has offered to put up $5 million of the $14 million needed in local money. The land bank, which gets most of its revenue from penalties and interest on delinquent taxes, recently demolished its 750th building. It expects to knock down 700 more properties by the end of this year.

The leftover lots are typically sold to neighbors for a nominal fee or given to the cities where the properties are located, land bank President Gus Frangos said.

The county prosecutor is also willing to kick in $5 million, with $1 million devoted specifically to the city of Cleveland. That money also comes from penalties and interest on delinquent taxes, Frangos said.

Initially, Prosecutor Bill Mason had committed $3 million, Frangos said, but he upped the contribution because he felt it was a worthy cause. Cleveland, which has demolished more than 5,000 properties since 2005 and has its own land bank, has estimated that it can put up $4 million.

The average cost of demolition is about $7,500, Frangos said. Additional asbestos removal costs could range from $500 to $5,000. Plus, there are other costs to maintain the properties pending demolition.

If a full match comes through from the state, it will probably take a few years to spend the $28 million, Frangos said. He said he’s unsure if the state will cap matching amounts.

DeWine said last month that the state money could be forthcoming by late spring. He declined then to say specifically how much Cleveland might get but said it would be millions of dollars.

Regardless of the state contribution, the local commitment of $14 million will not be reduced, he said.

The money “would provide a needed root canal for some neighborhoods that are on the brink of collapse,” Frangos said.