Friday’s demolition of an aging and abandoned house in North Toledo was both a family affair for the neighbors who watched it come down — and an opportunity for politicians to talk about a bipartisan bill they said will result in more demolitions.
Priscilla Zaborski, 34, who lives next door to the house that was demolished, named nine family members who own or occupy houses on the 1800 block of Chase Street, just north of the elevated I-280 highway.
“I’m happy about it because you get rodents and everything,” said Ms. Zaborski. “And it’s not safe.”
She and her cousin, Karen Austin, 25, who lives on the other side of 1847 Chase, have already arranged with the Lucas County Land Reutilization Corp. — also known as the Lucas County Land Bank — to buy the resulting lot and split it down the middle for their children to have large yards to play in.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Toledo Mayor Mike Bell visited the North Toledo neighborhood to observe the housing demolition and talk about the bill that Senator Portman is backing to allow Ohio to spend some leftover Troubled Assets Relief Program money from 2008 on demolitions.
The bill would divert $60 million in foreclosure relief funds to housing demolition in Ohio where some 100,000 homes are said to be in need of razing. Senator Portman said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) is a sponsor of the legislation in the House.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) also supports giving Ohio more discretion with some of the $375 million in unspent Troubled Assets Relief Program funds, but wants a bigger share of the money spent on housing counseling and foreclosure prevention.
Toledo has about 3,000 homes that officials say should be demolished because they pose a threat to safety and property values. The city has taken down more than 1,150 homes in the last three and a half years.
After the official comments, a powerful excavator operated by city of Toledo employees bit into the old house and in a half an hour had left it a pile of kindling.
“We’re excited,” said Ms. Austin. “People are dumping everything over there. It’s just disgusting.” She and husband Jonathan Austin have a 2-year-old son. They manage properties.
In addition to Ms. Austin, Ms. Zaborski’s relatives on the street include her sister-in-law, brother, mother, sister, two more cousins, and her brother’s mother-in-law. The woman who started this particular family concentration on Chase is Ms. Zaborski’s mother, Rachel Cook, 58, who moved into 1846 Chase 35 years ago.
“This is a family block,” said Monica Espino, the sister-in-law. “Everyone keeps an eye out for each other.”
A neighbor living across the street, Barbara Monto, 57, said she was both happy and sad to see the house come down. She said she played in the house as a child, but in recent years it has become an eyesore.
She said the former owner, John Feltis, who died in 2006, was “one of the last of the older people that did live in the block.”
Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, chairman of the land bank organization, said he expects Lucas County to win a significant chunk of the estimated $60 million because of the county land bank’s success in using a current $3.7 million demolition grant from the Ohio attorney general’s office.