Following Key Senate Vote, Brown, Ryan Discuss Bill Aimed at Improving the Livability of Ohio Towns and Rebuilding Communities with Vacant and Abandoned Properties

Brown Points to County-by-County Analysis of Ohio Communities with High Concentration of Vacant Homes Due to Population and Job Loss When Discussing his Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following a key committee vote, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-17) discussed critical legislation that would improve the livability of Ohio communities and direct federal assistance to communities with a high concentration of vacant and abandoned homes due to major population and job loss during a news conference call. A version of Brown's Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act, which he first introduced in 2009 with Rep. Ryan, was included as an amendment to the Livable Communities Act of 2010. Portions of the bill cleared the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee earlier this week and await consideration by the full Senate.

"Older industrial cities that served as the backbone of our nation's manufacturing economy are poised for new economic development and growth. Whether it's brownfield redevelopment or investments in public transportation that spur transit-oriented economic development, the innovative programs in this legislation are vital for Ohio," Brown said. "The Livable Communities Act of 2010 will help make our communities places where people want to live and work - places that can attract and retain our home-grown young people.

"The 17th District is home to a number of older industrial cities that will benefit from this legislation," stated Congressman Ryan.  "It is important to recognize that these communities are representative of many throughout the Northeastern and Midwestern United States who are struggling with the problems of vacant property, blight, and declining neighborhoods.  This Congress and this Administration must continue to prioritize older industrial cities - helping them to address their needs, capitalize on their assets, and become more competitive in a global market."

The Livable Communities Act of 2010 would improve the coordination between housing, community development, transportation, energy, and environmental policies to help create better places to live, work and raise families.  The bill will promote sustainable development and enable communities to cut traffic congestion; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption; protect farmland and green spaces; revitalize existing Main Streets and urban centers; spur economic development; and create more affordable housing. Click here for a summary of the legislation.

Brown and Ryan originally introduced the Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act of 2009 with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY). This legislation would create a new, competitive  grant program within the U.S. Department of Housing and  Urban Development (HUD) targeted toward cities and metropolitan areas experiencing large-scale property vacancy and abandonment due to long-term employment and population losses. Portions of this legislation were included in the Livable Communities Act of 2010.

Brown and Ryan discussed how communities could utilize funds in the legislation to demolish abandoned properties, find innovative uses for old structures, and create green space. Vacant housing blight slows neighborhood rejuvenation, reduces surrounding property values, and displaces resources from local firefighters and law enforcement.  In many cities, vacant properties account for half of the fires and one-third of the arson cases.

They were joined by Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, which manages "ReBuild Ohio," a statewide vacant property redevelopment coalition. They will discuss legislation that would create a new competitive program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development (HUD) targeted towards cities and metropolitan areas experiencing large-scale property vacancy and abandonment due to long-term employment and population losses. The program would provide funds to demolish abandoned properties, find innovative uses for old structures, and create green space.

Greater Ohio recently published a white paper with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program outlining recommendations to reshape and reinvent Ohio's cities that have experienced sustained, long-term population loss, turning them into "shrinking cities" with dramatic implications for their physical transformation.

"This "shrinking city" phenomenon is pervasive in Ohio.  The issue confronting these cities is not whether they will have different physical footprints and more green space than they do now, but how this transformation will happen, so they are ultimately smaller but stronger places to live," said Brachman, a co-author of the paper and also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "These cities, which have far more vacant land than can be absorbed through traditional redevelopment efforts, require innovative, comprehensive solutions that this legislation will be instrumental in encouraging."

More than 30 Ohio cities have seen double-digit percentage decreases in their population since 1970. In discussing the need for his legislation, Brown pointed to a county-by-county analysis on population loss and a statewide analysis of vacant properties in a sampling of Ohio metropolitan areas. A small sampling of percentage population changes in cities from 1970-2000 follows:

Cities

Population (2006)

Population (1970)

Pop Change

Percent Change

Akron

209,704

275,425

-65,721

-23.9%

Cincinnati

332,252

453,514

-121,262

-26.7%

Cleveland

444,313

750,879

-306,566

-40.8%

Columbus

733,203

540,025

193,178

35.8%

Dayton

156,771

244,564

-87,793

-35.9%

Lima

38,219

53,734

-15,515

-28.9%

Lorain

70,592

78,185

-7,593

-9.7%

Mansfield

50,212

57,949

-7,737

-13.4%

Springfield

62,844

81,941

-19,097

-23.3%

Toledo

298,446

383,062

-84,616

-22.1%

Youngstown

81,520

140,909

-59,389

-42.1%

Zanesville

25,361

33,045

-7,684

-23.3%

Source: United States Census Bureau

This population loss has resulted in a concentration of vacant properties and dwelling units.  A sample of dwelling unit vacancy rates follows:

Cities

Total Units

Vacant Units

% Vacant

Akron

95,336

11,984

12.6%

Canton

33,699

4,993

14.8%

Cincinnati

164,363

38,260

23.3%

Cleveland

215,413

46,785

21.7%

Columbus

363,589

54,334

14.9%

Dayton

78,581

19,086

24.3%

Lima*

17,631

2,221

12.6%

Ironton*

5,507

416

7.6%

Springfield*

29,303

3,055

10.4%

Toledo

137,410

18,424

13.4%

Youngstown

36,086

6,850

19.0%

Zanesville*

11,662

1,090

12.6%

Source: Congressional Research Service                                                                                                        *Source: United States Census Bureau (2000)                                                                                      

As a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Sen. Brown is working to ensure that Ohioans are able to secure affordable housing. Brown is a leading proponent of providing assistance to communities affected by the housing crisis and population loss. He fought for the creation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and the continuation of the program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. In Sep. 2008, Brown announced that Ohio communities would receive more than $258 million in NSP funds authorized by the housing bill. In Sep. 2009, Brown wrote to Secretary Donovan in support of Ohio applicants to the second wave of funding through the NSP program.

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