LORAIN — More federal taxpayer money is needed to demolish blighted, vacant homes, not rehabilitate or build new ones in blighted neighborhoods, Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Monday.
“The housing just becomes blight,” Ritenauer said after a public hearing on Community Development Block Grant funding. “It just becomes newer looking blight.”
During the hearing, Ritenauer said the Department of Housing and Urban Development has reduced money to Lorain for building new homes over the next three years by a total of $705,518. Ritenauer said he supports targeted home rehabilitation, but HUD’s HOME program hasn’t always accomplished that. The HOME program provides money to help poor people pay rent, rehabilitate homes and become first-time homebuyers.
The reduction was prompted by the administration of former Mayor Craig Foltin failing to build or rehabilitate 27 homes between 2004 and 2007, according to Leon Mason, deputy safety service director for community programs and affairs. The building initiative occurred before the housing bubble burst triggering the Great Recession and foreclosure explosion.
In Lorain, the primary focus has been on tearing down rather than building up due to the city’s high foreclosure rate. One in every 432 homes was in foreclosure in Lorain in June, according to Realty Trac, a real estate website. The rate was substantially higher than Lorain County rate of one in 567, the overall Ohio rate of one in 648 and the national rate of one in every 1,025.
Ritenauer estimates about 1,100 of the approximately 29,000 homes in Lorain need to be razed and the goal is to demolish 150 to 200 this year. Besides federal money, Ritenauer hopes to obtain money from the Lorain County land bank for demolitions.