WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged his colleagues to reject a dangerous provision in a bipartisan transportation bill that would rescind millions in funds awarded to Ohio to help communities devastated by the foreclosure crisis. The transportation bill would use funding from the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) – from which Ohio has been awarded $570 million – to pay for a portion of the highway bill extension.
“It’s critical that we pass a long-term transportation bill, but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of Ohio communities and families that are rebuilding from the housing crisis,” Brown said. “The Hardest Hit Fund has awarded $570 million to help Ohio communities to redevelop blighted neighborhoods by demolishing vacant properties and attracting new development. We should not rob this important resource to pay for another important priority.”
The Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was established in 2010, using remaining funds through 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. As a result, Ohio was awarded more than $570 million through the Hardest Hit Fund. While it has utilized $499 million of this award, the remaining $71 million could be taken back to pay for the transportation bill.
HHF has provided OHFA with more than $570 million in funds that can be used in a flexible manner to address Ohio’s local housing issues. Almost $200 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 10,000 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, after urging from Brown, the Department of the Treasury approved the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s proposal to use $60 million of the state’s nearly $375 million remaining HHF funds to demolish vacant and abandoned properties. This resulted in awards to the following Ohio land banks: