More homes in county may be razed (Mansfield News Journal)

The Richland County Land Reutilization Corporation hopes to know in about a month if it will receive more funds from the federal Neighborhood Initiative Program that can be used to demolish abandoned homes in the county.

Amy Hamrick, who administers the county land bank for the non-profit corporation, told the corporation board at its meeting Tuesday the county has met a requirement that at least half of money from a $773,750 grant be committed to specific projects by March 31.

Hamrick said the land bank has obtained 43 properties and obligated some $516,000 for demolition under the program, although there are no demolition contracts yet for any of the structures.

The amount obligated is based on NIP’s estimated cost of $12,000 to demolish a home.

Hamrick said the Ohio Housing Financing Agency, which administers NIP, is reviewing reports to determine which counties did not meet the spending guideline. “After that, they’ll be pulling money from counties that did not meet the requirement and reallocating it,” she said.

Hamrick also submitted the final report on the Moving Ohio Forward program, which provided additional funds to demolish blighted properties. Money for the state program came from settlements against mortgage companies.

Hamrick said officials spent just over $1 million to demolish 121 structures at an average cost of $8,667 before the program ended Dec. 31, 2014. The money included $797,150 from the state and $251,568 in matching funds that came mostly from Mansfield’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Statewide, counties removed 14,600 problem units at a cost of $118 million.

In other business, the RCLRC reviewed a letter from Robin Thomas, director of the land bank program for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, asking if the group is interested in joining a group effort to get a letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service on the tax exempt status for the land bank. Land banks currently have been relying on an opinion from a nationally known law firm provided to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

Thomas said the private letter ruling from the IRS would provide assurance of the tax exempt status and assure donors their contributions are tax deductible. Estimated cost to the local land bank could be as much as $3,700. The board put off a decision pending a review of the information.

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