Sherrod Brown announces $97.6 million for foreclosure prevention and blight removal in Ohio

Staff report

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) last week announced that following his urging, Ohio will receive $97.6 million in new federal dollars, and is eligible to receive an additional $250 million, to help communities that were devastated by the foreclosure crisis. The funding is part of a $2 billion investment that Brown secured in December to bolster the Hardest Hit Fund as part of the year-end government funding bill.

Under the plan announced today, Ohio will be awarded a direct infusion of $97.6 million from the Hardest Hit Fund for foreclosure mitigation and blight demolition programs. The Ohio Housing Financing Agency (OHFA) is also eligible to apply for an additional $250 million through the program, which means the state could receive up to $347.6 million from the Hardest Hit Fund. Since 2010, the fund has awarded more than $570 million to Ohio and helped more than more than 24,500 Ohioans.

“This new funding will go a long way toward helping Ohio communities and homeowners that are still recovering from the devastation of the foreclosure crisis,” said Brown, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “When one home is foreclosed on or abandoned, it has a ripple effect that hurts the value of other homes in the neighborhood. Getting rid of abandoned properties helps to strengthen neighborhoods and reduce crime. I will continue fighting to ensure that Ohio gets its fair share of resources through the Hardest Hit Fund.”

OHFA will have until March 11, 2016 to apply for the additional competitive funding, which the U.S. Treasury Department intends to distribute by the end of April. To assist Ohio and other eligible states, Treasury is extending the drawdown date for the funding from 2017 to 2020.

In July 2015, Brown helped strike a provision from a version of a transportation bill offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that would have rescinded millions in funds from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The Hardest Hit Fund 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.

The Hardest Hit Fund 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. As of January 31, 2015, more than $520 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 have lost their homes through a sheriff’s sale.

In 2013, Brown fought to ensure that Ohio communities could also use the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish vacant and abandoned properties. In March of that year, after urging from Brown, the Department of the Treasury approved OHFA’s proposal to use a portion of the state’s nearly $375 million remaining Hardest Hit Fund 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

Staff report