Senator visits Warren to promote home demolition bill - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Senator visits Warren to promote home demolition bill

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WARREN, Ohio - U.S. Senator Rob Portman visits the city of Warren to share how he, along with other lawmakers, are working on ways to help Ohio cities tear down vacant and condemned homes.

Portman joined Mayor Doug Franklin and the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership for a neighborhood tour along Washington Street Northeast and Waverly Aveune Thursday morning.

Recently Portman recently introduced legislation, the Neighborhood Safety Act, that would allow cities and land banks to tap into state funds to pay for more demolitions.

Money for municipalities would come from federal TARP funds, already allocated to the state to the tune of $60 million.

"The connection that we're making in Washington is that hardest hit states, like Ohio, therefore we qualify for this, actually will see an improvement in the mortgage, underwater problem," Portman says.

Warren is in the process of utilizing Moving Ohio Forward grant dollars. About 150 homes were going through the demolition process as of late July, while 318 homes waited on a demolition list.

To show the impact vacant homes are having on the community, the county partnership pointed out to Portman that five homes on Waverly Avenue alone were ready to be demolished. This year the city plans to tear down three of the five with the monetary resourced is has access to.

"I think the key is to do it strategically, so that you can show impact," Mayor Doug Franklin says. "The houses that we can take down in this neighborhood actually stablizes the property values, it helps with the crime issue."

Portman hopes the act will be offered as an amendment to another bill, so it will pass before the end of 2013. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

If the measure is passed, Portman is still uncertain how much money cities, including Warren, would then have access to out of the state's $60 million in federal dollars.

According to Portman's office, Ohio has nearly 100,000 vacant properties awaiting demolition.

The senator's office says that municipalities and local land banks have worked collaboratively to demolish vacant properties, but with municipal budgets already stretched, there is little money available to tackle this problem.

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