The Mahoning County Land Bank is in the midst of a far-reaching, $14.81 million residential housing demolition program that will stretch into mid-2019.

The Land Bank was awarded a $4.27 million Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) demolition grant in early 2014 funded by the Ohio Housing Financing Agency. An additional $500,000 performance-based bonus was granted in November 2015. Additional performance-based awards of $6.89 million in July 2016 and $3.15 million in October 2016 will fund demolition activities through mid-2019.

The grants are allowing the Land Bank to acquire and then demolish and improve the vacant lots of what today are hundreds of tax delinquent, abandoned, blighted residential homes. The grant originally targeted specific “tipping point” sections of five communities: Youngstown, Campbell, Struthers, Boardman and Austintown.

View the map and locations where demolitions were completed in 2015-16 here.

Expanded target areas were approved in January 2017 which will expand the Land Bank’s work to every corner of the county.

View the new and existing eligible Target Area maps – countywide – here.

NIP is funded with money remaining from Ohio’s share of Hardest Hit Funds, provided by the U.S. Treasury to help prevent future housing foreclosures. The goal is stemming property value declines and future foreclosures in communities already hurt by vacant and blighted homes.

The grant requires the Land Bank to first take ownership of a tax delinquent, abandoned and dilapidated house before performing a demolition. The Land Bank has until mid-2019 to complete acquisition and demolition. If you own a troubled house located in a Target Area and want to donate the property to the Land Bank, fill out a donation application found here. 

Meanwhile, the Land Bank finished its work in the Moving Ohio Forward (MOF) demolition grant program in early 2014. The grant provided the Land Bank with $1.5 million; $500,000 for direct reimbursement of costs and $1 million to be matched by local governments totaling $2.5 million in demolition activity. A second round grant of $76,000 for direct reimbursement was awarded later.

MOF was funded with money from a settlement with major mortgage servicers over faulty foreclosure and mortgage practices and assists communities with residential demolition needs.

The Land Bank awarded 11 local governments various amounts based on the percentage of vacant property in each community. Those communities completed hundreds of demolitions. Plus, the Land Bank performed 10 demolitions along major corridors in Youngstown including South Ave., Glenwood Ave. and McCartney Road and performed 4 more demolitions in Smith Township.

Once those lots become vacant, treating them as assets rather than liabilities improves a community’s ability to stabilize its housing market and prevent the spread of blight and decay into neighboring areas.

Lien Forward Ohio, Mahoning County Land Bank’s predecessor in vacant land reclamation, anchored a public-private partnership to improve conditions in the Brier Hill section of Youngstown from 2009 to 2012. Dozens of empty lots throughout the neighborhood were acquired and transferred to neighbors and stakeholders for personal, community and institutional use. Funded by contributions from local businesses and foundations, Lien Forward Ohio also oversaw demolitions of 15 highly visible properties along the U.S. Route 422 corridor. After demolition, some parcels were seeded with a grass and clover mixture that required less maintenance. Other parcels were selected for wildflower and tree plantings, including six adjacent lots at the busy intersection of Route 422 and Superior Street. Meadow plans were developed by Treez Please, a nonprofit community reforestation project and implemented by many volunteers.

Besides changing the physical landscape in Brier Hill, demolition and greening had an impact on real estate values. When the County Auditor completed a reappraisal in 2011, property values in the project area increased slightly, while values dropped by double digits in other parts of Youngstown.