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More Demolition Funds Could Be Coming to Cuyahoga County

Cuyahoga County has thousands of unsalvageable vacant houses and commercial properties that some say drag down neighborhood property values and add to potential crime problems. But a new bill in the state would help fund their demolition.

The measure was introduced by State Rep. Dave Greenspan, a Republican from Westlake, Tuesday in the Ohio House of Representatives. It calls for $50 million in new funding to demolish vacant properties across the state.

The bill is an attempt to fill some of the gap created as local and federal demolition funds dry up more than 10 years after the 2008 foreclosure crisis. Cuyahoga County could qualify for up to $10 million under the bill.

“Empty commercial and industrial sites hamper new development, and the land banks are quickly running out of funds needed to demolish unused structures on those properties,” Greenspan said in a press release. “This bill mitigates that coming shortfall so our counties can continue demolishing abandoned buildings and redeveloping those commercial land parcels.”

Cuyahoga County currently has more than 5,600 vacant and abandoned houses -- down from about 16,000 at the height of the foreclosure crisis -- mostly in Cleveland and East Cleveland. The county also has about seven million square feet of vacant shopping centers and industrial buildings.

Most of those properties can’t be saved — and attract crime, said Jim Rokakis, vice president of the , which supports the bill. He says their removal can also increase property values in city neighborhoods — many predominantly African-American — that were targeted by predatory lenders before the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

"The people that are left in those communities should not be left to sit in a sea of vacant abandoned properties with all the corresponding issues that come with it," Rokakis says. "And if there’s any hope in restoring equity for those very people it’s by removing the blight from those communities."

Counties receiving funding under the bill would need to provide a one-for-one local match.

In Cuyahoga County, any new demolition will be in addition to a $30 million housing renovation program announced earlier this year.

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