Clark County has received a more than $630,000 state grant to fight blight in Springfield.
The grant will allow the Clark County land bank to demolish about 65 foreclosed and abandoned homes in Springfield over the life of the grant, depending on costs, Executive Director Tom Hale said.
“These homes become a focal point for things of not such a positive nature,” Hale said. “If we remove them and do something positive for the neighborhood, maybe that will spread around and take off. Everyone else will take notice and do better with their own property.”
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The land bank received a similar grant in 2014 and an additional $500,000 last fall. Since 2014, the land bank has received a total of about $1.7 million — and could receive more in the future, Hale said.
“We’re pleased with anything we can get,” he said.
The land bank will use that money to demolish a total of about 115 blighted, abandoned and foreclosed homes in Springfield through 2019, Hale said. More grant money will be made available in October, Hale said.
The process can take awhile and includes demolition, environmental issues and landscaping.
The local land bank was one of 18 in Ohio to receive a portion of $191 million in funding through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Initiative Program, designed to help counties demolish vacant homes and prevent foreclosures.
“Blight continues to be a problem across the state, in many cases effecting property values and increasing the risk of foreclosure,” OHFA Executive Director Doug Garver said. “The improvement that results from eliminating these properties in neighborhoods directly impacts homeowners by reducing many of the subsequent factors, such as an increased crime rate, that adversely affect property values.”
The money was made available as part of the federal Hardest Hit Fund Program.
The land bank has demolished 20 properties so far. They’re currently working on another 11 properties, Hale said.
The land bank recently demolished a home at the corner of Light and West Main streets, and added a green space with landscaping and benches. Two properties located next to the site have also been forfeited to the state, Hale said, and all three could be converted into a community garden.
The green space has beautified the neighborhood, said Springfield resident Kiesha Baker, who often stops to sit at the benches as she waits for the bus.
“It’s the best thing they ever did,” Baker said. “For me, it helps because when you take long walks, you need a place to sit down … It makes a difference.”
The grant is good news for the community, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said.
“It’s bringing money into the community to improve our quality of life by eliminating undesirable old housing stock,” Detrick said.
Earlier this year, Springfield city commissioners agreed to spend up to $300,000 to demolish as many as 50 structures this year.
Between 2011 and 2014 the city demolished more than 220 structures, using extra funding from the Ohio Moving Forward and Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants. A year ago, without the extra funding, the city demolished 28 properties.
This year the city will use both federal Community Development Block Grant money and sewer funds to demolish homes to help with the combined sewer overflow project, which is federally mandated to reduce storm water and raw sewage from running into local streams and rivers. The abandoned structures are still tied to the sewer system and it’s cheaper to demolish the vacant homes than remove them from the sewer system.
The demolitions stabilize the housing market and can improve the property values of other homes in the neighborhood, Deputy City Manager Bryan Heck said. The city and county work closely together to maximize funding, he said.
“The land bank has been a great tool and asset to our community,” Heck said.
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