Ohio attorney general: 14,600 structures demolished under program aimed at blighted homes

Associated Press

More than 14,600 blighted properties around Ohio have been demolished in the past two years under a program aimed at benefiting areas affected by foreclosures, the state's attorney general said Friday.

Ohio used $75 million from a national settlement with major mortgage servicers to create a grant program in 2012 to revitalize neighborhoods and eliminate abandoned structures. A portion of the settlement money also was designated for consumer relief in the form of cash payments, loan modifications and refinancing.

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Attorney General Mike DeWine released a report on the results of the demolition program at a news conference Friday.

The grant program helped get rid of eyesore properties that posed as safety hazards and havens for crime, he said.

For instance, one three-story property in Hardin County had become known as "The Heroin Hotel" because of the number of police calls for drug activity. The building was in such poor shape that a side street near it had to be closed at times, according to the report from DeWine's office.

"The demolition took longer than expected as the contractors took extra precautions to avoid the large number of needles they found during inspections and debris removal," the report read. The site is now a green space.

Each of Ohio's 88 counties received grant money based on their percentage of foreclosures from 2008 to 2011.

Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, saw the most housing units razed at 3,449. Franklin County demolished 1,800 units, while Hamilton County tore down 1,626 units.

Matching funds were required for some grant allocations, so the program was able to steer more than $119 million toward demolitions, with an average cost of about $8,100. Youngstown and Toledo used city employees to get rid of properties at a lower cost.

DeWine said the program has helped improve property values and rejuvenate neighborhoods.

"Unfortunately, the mortgage crisis left a lot of victims in its wake," he said. "And while we can't make all of them whole, this program made a big difference."

Some highlights from the demolition grant program:

— 165,000 bees and 32 pounds of honey were removed from a property in Sandusky County.

— Sandusky County recycled 440 scrap tires from its demolition sites.

— 50 fire and emergency personnel training classes were held at properties ahead of demolitions in the city of Franklin.

— Columbiana County demolished a snake-infested property, where one bite was reported.