Ohio counties now have extra time to demolish and clean up thousands of vacant and nuisance properties after the attorney general’s office extended a deadline to use up demolition grant funds.
The Moving Ohio Forward grant money, about $75 million statewide, has already paid for more than 10,000 demolitions since 2012, about ten percent of the estimated number of abandoned properties statewide. Dayton city officials say they expect to see a total of $3.8 million from the state by the time they complete the demolitions; some of that is rollover money from other communities unable to use the funds on time in the first round of demolitions.
The city has done more than 750 demolitions since the beginning of 2014, which amounts to about 10 percent of the vacant properties that have been declared nuisances. The city spends thousands annually to upkeep these properties, which are often tax-delinquent with an owner who is unreachable or out-of-state.
Despite a widespread desire to get rid of blighted properties, lots of counties and cities have struggled to use up the demolition grant funds and file all the paperwork. The Attorney General’s office says weather, lack of contractors, and a lack of preparation to start immediately doing demolitions all created obstacles, particularly for medium-size counties with less infrastructure to get started immediately.
“It’s not an issue that you can identify the property on Tuesday and begin to ameliorate the issue by the following Wednesday,” says Aaron Sorrell with the city of Dayton Department of Community Development. He says Dayton is on track with the project—and that the money has been a shot in the arm for dealing with the thousands of abandoned sites around the city. He also says the grants have been an economic development tool, as they employ contractors that may have lost work after the Recession.
Matt Lampke with the Attorney General’s office says Hamilton and Sandusky Counties were among those that asked for an extension of the May 31 deadline to complete demolitions; other areas, like Cincinnati and Columbus, haven't used up all their funds yet, but in part that's because they are behind on paperwork. Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, has used up all its demolition money and demolished more than 3,000 units.
The money coming through the state for demolitions will run out—it comes from a $25 billion, multi-state legal settlement with five big banks over mortgage fraud and abuse following the financial collapse of 2008. Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced he will extend the May 31 deadline to the end of September.
Sorrell says he’s not sure where resources will come from to continue the city’s demolition program.