After Brown Push, Congress Set to Boost Funding for Blight Removal in Ohio

Government-Funding Bill Would Bolster Hardest Hit Fund to Permit Demolition of Abandoned Homes. Brown, Ranking Member on Banking Committee, Led Effort to Expand Program to Ohio in 2010.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that following his urging, the year-end government funding bill includes a provision that would allow Ohio communities that were devastated by the foreclosure crisis to apply for additional funding to combat neighborhood blight.

The appropriations bill would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to transfer $2 billion from the Making Home Affordable program to the more targeted Hardest Hit Fund (HHF). Those funds would then be distributed to states with current contracts, including Ohio, that apply for additional funding for foreclosure mitigation and blight demolition programs. Since 2010, the fund has awarded more than $570 million to Ohio.

“This is a major win for Ohio communities and homeowners that are still recovering from the housing crisis,” said Brown, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “It’s critical that we continue to preserve and strengthen a fund that has provided over half a billion dollars to address the housing crisis in Ohio and to redevelop blighted neighborhoods by demolishing vacant properties.”

In July, Brown helped strike a provision of the Senate version of a transportation bill that would have rescinded millions in funds from the Hardest Hit Fund from Ohio communities. The original bill would have used the fund to pay for the cost of the highway bill.

The Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was established in 2010 under the Recovery Act, using a one-time infusion of funds remaining in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) passed in 2008. Ohio was not initially included in the program, but Brown made direct appeals to President Obama and then-Treasury Secretary Geithner to dedicate additional funds for this program. At the behest of Brown, the program, then called Hardest-Hit Housing Markets (4HM) program, was expanded in March 2010 to cover Ohio.

HHF has provided the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) with more than $570 million in funds that can be used in a flexible manner to address Ohio’s local housing issues. As of September 2015, more than $429 million has been spent on a variety of programs that help Ohioans stay in their homes, including direct assistance to borrowers and help for local housing counselors to assist homeowners. Of the more than 24,500 Ohioans who have received assistance to date, the overwhelming majority have been able to remain in their homes. Less than one-half of one percent of participants has lost their homes through a sheriff’s sale.

In 2013, Brown fought to ensure that Ohio communities could also use the HHF to demolish vacant and abandoned properties. In March of that year, after urging from Brown, the Department of the Treasury approved the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s proposal to use a portion of the state’s nearly $375 million remaining HHF funds to demolish vacant and abandoned properties. This resulted in nearly $80 million in awards to the following Ohio land banks:

  • Ashtabula County Land Reutilization Corporation: $1,296,033.78
  • Belmont County Land Reutilization Corporation: $500,000
  • Butler County Land Reutilization Corporation: $2,000,000
  • City of Canton/Stark County Land Reutilization Corporation: $4,735,000
  • Central Ohio Community Improvement Corporation: $6,379,900
  • Clark County Land Reutilization Corporation: $1,180,000.00
  • Columbiana County Land Reutilization Corporation: $1,618,750
  • Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation: $20,114,346.83
  • Erie County Land Reutilization Corporation: $375,000
  • Fairfield County Land Reutilization Corporation: $400,000
  • Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation: $5,565,000  
  • Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission: $715,000
  • Lake County Land Reutilization Corporation: $500,000
  • Lorain County Port Authority: $3,301,033.78 
  • Lucas County Land Reutilization Corporation: $11,521,525
  • Mahoning County Land Reutilization Corporation: $4,766,250 
  • Montgomery County Land Reutilization Corporation: $5,905,933.78
  • Richland County Land Reutilization Corporation: $1,569,783.78
  • Summit County Land Reutilization Corporation: $2,000,000 
  • Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corporation: $4,896,016.08

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