MARIETTA - Under a housing demolition program recently announced by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Washington County could receive $153,742 for removing blighted and abandoned homes.
Through the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program, all of Ohio's 88 counties are eligible to receive funding for home removal.
Those interested in participating in the program must apply by June 30. Washington County Commissioner Tim Irvine said the commissioners do plan to submit an application.
Washington-Morgan "Community Action will administer the program," he said.
"We will collaborate with the cities, villages and townships to identify residential properties that qualify under the program guidelines."
Dawn Rauch, the director of planning and development at Community Action, said local government and health department officials will be asked to prioritize projects in their respective communities.
"Because it's a limited amount of funding we won't do all the properties they're submitting," she said. "We would expect to do between 15 to 20 properties."
Rauch noted that property owners must be willing to have their property demolished.
In total, $75 million in grants are available under the program. The money is from a national mortgage settlement.
"Earlier this year attorneys general across the country announced a settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers," said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's office. "It was a settlement over their practice of robo signatures which may have exasperated foreclosures across the country."
Attorneys general in 49 states accused banks of approving foreclosures without properly reviewing documentation.
Tierney noted that the amount of grant money each county is eligible for varies. The lowest amount is $30,396, which Monroe County is eligible to receive, while the highest amount is $11,850,744, which is Cuyahoga County's potential share.
"The formula was based on the percentage of foreclosures filed in each county between 2008 and 2011," he said.
The grant money can only be used for residential anti-blight projects, not commercial or industrial projects.
Tierney pointed out there were many victims of the foreclosure crisis and in many cases vacated homes have been vandalized and have fallen into disrepair, which is negatively impacting the neighbors of those properties.
"Their property values have been unfairly diminished due to the neglect," he said. "If you remove an abandoned home in a strategic location you can increase property values and create useful space that would not occur if being occupied by an uninhabitable home."
Dalzell resident Violet Lauer, who also owns property in Marietta, said she doesn't think a home should be torn down unless it absolutely has to be.
She said she would rather see homeowners receive money for repairing properties.
"They don't see the potential in older homes," said Lauer, 52.
Marietta Township resident Dick Wendelken, on the other hand, said he is definitely in favor of the program.
"In back of us in Marietta Township I have been after them for five years or longer to tear down a couple houses that have pretty well rotted to the ground," he said. "There's really no access to them."
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz said the program ties in well with the city's efforts to clean up and beautify the city.
"Then you turn a corner and you've got some sort of blight, so... it's going to be a good program," he said.
It's not the first time money has been made available to Washington County for the purpose of home removal. Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, $1.6 million was alloted to Washington, Morgan, Hocking, Athens and Perry counties, allowing for 101 homes to be demolished between 2009 and this year, according to Rauch.
She said a total of 34 homes were demolished in Marietta under the program, but there are still some that need to be addressed.