Two Northeast Ohio members of Congress said today they will introduce a bill this evening in the House of Representatives when they return to Washington that would make $4 billion available to the states to help communities swamped by the need to demolish vacant and abandoned properties.
Standing in front of three abandoned homes on East 69th Street in Cleveland’s Slavic Village, U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge of Warrensville Heights and Steve LaTourette of Lake County said the Restore Our Neighborhoods Act of 2012 would allow states and land banks to issue 30-year demolition bonds to help speed the demolition of crumbling residential and commercial properties.
“The need for demolition of blighted structures is clearly beyond what any community can handle alone,” said Rep. Fudge, a Democrat. “We need innovative solutions to what has become a national problem.”
Rep. Fudge called Slavic Village the “epicenter” of the foreclosure crisis and added that 40% of the homes on the Slavic Village stretch of East 69th either have been demolished or abandoned in the last five years.
Rep. LaTourette, a Republican, said he has sought support for the bill from many of his Republican colleagues in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner. Rep. LaTourette said he and Rep. Fudge expected to introduce the bill at 6:30 tonight when the House reconvenes.
The act would create $4 billion in National Qualified Urban Demolition Bonds. All states would get an equal share of half the authorized bonds, about $40 million each, while Ohio and several other states determined to be hardest hit by the foreclosure and abandonment crisis would share the other half of the pot. States would have two years to allocate the money or lose the bonding authority.
Instead of paying interest, bondholders would be entitled to a tax credit. Communities would be able to repay the loans over 30 years.
The hope is that resale of land and rising tax values would help cover the cost of the program. The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County both have land banks to hold vacant land after demolition and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the two governments already have set aside $14 million for the next round of demolition.
Mayor Jackson said the city has spent $20 million over the last five to seven years to tear down 6,000 houses.
“With this bill we will be able to move our agenda further down the road,” he said.