Razing homes: County receives money to demolish homes

More than $215,000 in state money has been awarded to Auglaize County for the demolition of vacant and blighted homes.
“This money is being allocated to allow for reinvestment, to spur growth and property values,” Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer said. “It just gives another resource for villages, cities and townships to deal with blighted or dilapidated property. It’s a way to take these homes and increase the land value, renew the property and better the neighborhood.”
The money, part of grants made available to every county in the state by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office through the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program, is part of a settlement with five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses, fraud, and unfair and deceptive mortgage practices.
Of the $330 million awarded to the state, $75 million was allocated to Ohio’s 88 counties to demolish vacant, abandoned and blighted properties that detract from existing home values and create a toxic breading ground for crime, according to grant program guidelines.
On awards of $500,000 or less, including the $215,777 to be made available for Auglaize County, no matching funds are required. Each county’s allocation formula was based on the percentage of foreclosures filed there between 2008 and 2011.
A lead entity in each county had to apply and be approved in accordance with eligibility criteria before funds were made available. Homes eligible for demolition through the grant need not meet any kind of low- to moderate-income eligibility, but they must be vacant and located in an area zoned for residential property. Before the houses can be demolished, the county has to obtain the owner’s permission as well as the permission of the bank if a lien or mortgage remains on the property.
Auglaize County officials plan to act as the lead agency in executing the grant funding and would need to enter into sub-recipient agreements with cities, villages and townships for them to utilize the money for demolitions.
“This money will be open to all cities, villages and townships in the county,” Spencer said.
While the cities of St. Marys and Wapakoneta already have an existing list of 15 properties for possible demolition, Spencer said there should still be plenty of other funds available for houses outside city limits.
According to Auglaize County’s grant application, most of the properties on the current list are in residential neighborhoods, with a few located along the fringes of developed areas. There is no major concentration of vacant blighted properties within any one area or neighborhood, with units scattered throughout the county.
“The properties located in the smaller villages and less populous townships are highly visible as expected and their removal will greatly benefit the surrounding properties and the community as a whole,” according to the information Auglaize County officials submitted.
While Spencer said they have yet to decide how the list of projects would be determined and if the county would establish any parameters, it is possible they may follow general guidelines set several years ago when the county received federal funding for the demolition of six homes in low- to moderate-income areas.
Spencer said they plan to establish a working group, with representation from their office, the Auglaize County Health Department and Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, to help select properties to benefit from the grant. The value of properties to be demolished cannot exceed $10,000.
Also to be taken into consideration when selecting properties for demolition are their location and extent of nuisance or blighted condition, ownership and liens, those that are public nuisances and pose an immediate threat to public health and safety, and the architectural and historic value and significance of structures.
Approximately $10,000 of the demolition grant funding would be used for administrative costs.