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Published: Friday, 3/1/2013

DeWine promotes program to improve neighborhoods

Mortgage settlement money funds demolition

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Workers demolish a home on Brewster Street that has sat vacant since 2007, resulting in depressed home values. The Ohio Attorny General’s office is promoting  national mortgage settlement money to help fund the demolitions in blighted neighborhoods. Toledo hopes to remove 900 vacant houses. Workers demolish a home on Brewster Street that has sat vacant since 2007, resulting in depressed home values. The Ohio Attorny General’s office is promoting national mortgage settlement money to help fund the demolitions in blighted neighborhoods. Toledo hopes to remove 900 vacant houses.
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Pointing to an empty house that has stood vacant since 2007, and which was about to be torn down in central Toledo, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, “imagine living in a neighborhood with a house like that.”

Mayor Mike Bell and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine talk about neighborhood issues in front of a home being demolished. Mayor Mike Bell and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine talk about neighborhood issues in front of a home being demolished.
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With that, and after a few short speeches, the jaws of an excavator run by Toledo heavy equipment operator Ken Hayes bit into the front of 927 Brewster St. Thirty minutes later it was a pile of lumber and plaster.

The central-city house was the 340th to come down as part of a program funded through the Attorney General’s office, Lucas County, and the city of Toledo to remove at least 900 blighted old homes over 18 months.

Mr. DeWine said the money came from a national settlement reached in 2012 between mortgage service businesses and U.S. state attorneys general over the robo-signing of mortgage documents that helped precipitate the 2008 mortgage foreclosure crisis.

“They were doing bad things. They were victimizing individuals. They were violating the law,” Mr. DeWine said. The money was to be used to benefit the victims of the mortgage companies, he said.

More than $200 million has been distributed to people who lost their homes or were under water with their mortgage as a result of the robo-signing scandal, Mr. DeWine said.

In addition, the attorney general’s office received about $93 million to allocate. Mr. DeWine said he decided to use about $75 million to help cities and county land banks knock down homes and eliminate blight that was partially caused by the mortgage crisis. No other state targeted its money on demolition to the extent that Ohio has, he said.

For Lucas County, the attorney general’s office put up $3.7 million, which was matched by $3.2 million from the Lucas County Land Bank, chaired by Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, and $400,000 from Toledo.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the program is on track to complete 900 demolitions by the end of the year. In 2011, the city demolished what was then an all-time record 326 homes, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

“These homes aren’t doing anyone any good. These are vacant, abandoned structures for which there is no market solution,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “The Land Bank program isn’t about this vacant home. It’s about all the homes around it that have seen their values come down.”

The Land Bank has the authority to foreclose on tax-delinquent properties, such as 927 Brewster, when there is demand for the property, such as from a neighbor who wants it for a vacant lot or from a developer who wants to build on the property.

County records show the privately owned property has unpaid taxes of $4,561. Officials said the demolition was ordered under the city’s nuisance abatement authority.

Demolished earlier on Thursday was the adjacent structure at 933 Brewster. Boarded-up doors and windows on several adjacent homes on Brewster and Wellington Street signaled more demolitions that could come. Across Wellington is a park owned by the city.

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp hailed the program as a benefit for public safety because it means 900 more vacant homes that won’t have to be checked by law enforcement officers for illegal activity.

Also on hand were Mayor Mike Bell, Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson, and at-large Councilman George Sarantou.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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