Land banks in 2 counties aim to raze 950 houses

By David Skolnick


About $13.5 million is coming to land banks in Mahoning and Trumbull counties to demolish 950 vacant houses, largely in Youngstown and Warren.

The money, announced Wednesday by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, is on top of the $9.7 million the Mahoning County Land Bank and the Trumbull County Land Bank received in the past two years for the same purpose.

Mahoning County is getting $6,894,969, and Trumbull will receive $6,566,271. Both are larger amounts than the more-populated counties of Stark and Summit were awarded. The amounts are based on population and performance.

“We’ve accomplished a lot as a region, and because of that, we’re receiving additional money,” said Debora Flora, Mahoning County Land Bank executive director.

Since mid-2014, 200 vacant properties, about 75 percent of them in Youngstown, have been demolished with the $4.8 million awarded Mahoning County from the state agency, she said.

Also, about 60 additional properties will be demolished in a few months, and 50 to 60 more will be taken down early next year using that money, Flora said. Most of the houses to be demolished also will be in Youngstown, she said.

The new funding will pay for the demolition of about 450 houses, she said.

“We’ll use it in existing areas, and we’ll look at some other parts of Youngstown and other communities in the county that need maybe six demos,” Flora said.

The targeted areas in Youngstown include the entire East Side, Crandall Park on the North Side, the Idora Neighborhood on the South Side, Cornersburg, Buckeye/Lansingville on the southeast side and portions of the West Side.

Also on the list is most of Campbell and portions of Struthers – which had about 50 houses demolished between the two. The eastern part of Austintown had one house demolished, and about five were taken down in northern Boardman, Flora said.

Trumbull County has received $4.9 million since mid-2014 from the state agency, and has demolished about 200 vacant houses and plans to take down another 200 over the next few months, said Matt Martin, executive director of the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which manages the county’s land bank. Except for about five houses in Girard, all the demolition has happened in Warren, he said.

The new funding will pay for about 500 additional demolitions, he said. Much of the work still will be in Warren, but the partnership will also target areas in Warren Township, Niles, Hubbard, Brookfield and Masury, Martin said.

The money from the state’s Neighborhood Initiative Program comes from the federal Hardest Hit Fund, originally intended to provide funds to those losing their homes to foreclosure.

But with fewer people than expected seeking that money, Ohio persuaded the federal government to take $762 million from the program and have county land banks use it for demolition work.

The maximum amount per property is $25,000 with an estimated average amount of $14,000, according to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

The amount ranges because of the level of asbestos that is required to be removed before demolition.