Funds For Those Facing Foreclosure Could Be Used Elsewhere

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UPDATED: Thursday June 20, 2013 5:51 PM

They are rickety, run down, shattered shambles of housing, and for Robert Booth of east Columbus, the situation is outrageous.  

He lives on Gilbert Street, where at least six homes are boarded up.

Ohio has an estimated 100,000 abandoned homes that cities claim they don't have the money to tear down.

So the state is asking to dip into a fund used to prevent foreclosures to help tear down homes that no one lives in anymore.

The money comes from a federal program called the Hardest Hit Fund.

There's $374 million in it now.

Ohio would like to take a $60 million slice of that-- or more-- to pay for the demolition of abandoned homes statewide.

But for groups like the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio that use that money to help people avoid foreclosure, the proposal raises serious concerns.

“I don't want to see those efforts stopped or thwarted to address another need in our community,” said Bill Faith, the executive director of the group.

Faith says while $60 million to demolish homes is a number he can live with, he's heard it could be higher and warns that it could add to the foreclosure problem.

“If they take too much, that effort would be thwarted and we may have to terminate the program early,” he said.

Doug Garver of the Ohio housing finance agency disagrees and supports the use of the funds towards demolition.

“I think we can accomplish both the primary mission and will remain to help people stay in their homes,” Garver said.

As for Robert Booth, he says unless someone tears down the abandoned homes near him, it will be hard for his – and his neighbors’ – home values to go up.

“Tear’em down. I'd rather see a vacant lot over there,” Booth said.

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