Butler County land bank ‘racing to beat the clock’ to demolish grant-eligible blight

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Butler County Land Bank Makes Blight Disappear

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Butler County Land Bank might not lose more than $600,000 in state grant funding awarded to demolish vacant and blighted homes after all.

Butler County was awarded $4.3 million in Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP) monies beginning in 2014 that targeted preventing foreclosures and stabilizing local property values through the demolitions.

Hamilton and Middletown, the county’s two largest cities, had until Dec. 18 to spend $3.2 million. Of that, $620,839 was not spent, largely due to a lag in Middletown’s property acquisitions.

Kathy Dudley, community stabilization administrator of the land bank, said a number of land banks didn’t meet the “benchmarks” so there is a pool of unallocated money — including Butler County’s $620,000 — available for the land bank to seek.

RELATED: Why Butler County had to give back $620K awarded to demolish blighted homes

The final deadline to spend the remaining $1 million of the grant money is December, and the land bank has already demolished and been reimbursed for $600,000. Dudley expects the rest of original grant will be spent by June. Then she said they can try to recoup the lost funds. All tolled the county has been reimbursed almost $3.3 million for demolishing 220 properties.

Dudley said she is “feeling comfortable” the land bank won’t be out all the money.

“Given the rate of our reimbursement in the last four months we will be able to tap into the unallocated pool of funds, which is represented in part by the $600,000,” she said. “We will be moving forward with additional demos using that money.”

County Treasurer Nancy Nix, who is president of the land bank board, said Dudley and the two cities have been “racing to beat the clock” identifying vacant, blighted properties so the land bank can get all the reimbursement from the original grant by June and then try to recoup the lost money.

“Once the June hurdle is behind us, we will apply for the unallocated pool of funds that had been returned from land banks across the state, including Butler County’s,” she said. “While we may not be eligible for 100% of what the Butler County Land Bank sent back, we will do everything we can to at least get a great part of it.”

Some land bank officials believed the two cities were equal partners in NIP grant, but as of mid-January Hamilton had acquired, demolished and been reimbursed for 160 properties, while Middletown had done the same for 35.

Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins told the Journal-News when the grant was partially lost his city has been razing ramshackle homes according to the city council’s direction, as part of a plan they are developing to transform the city’s housing stock. He noted the city knocked down more than 500 blighted homes during the Great Recession but that it can’t act on others identified in the grant application.

“The vacant, blighted houses in those neighborhoods are mostly down. The remaining blight in those grant-eligible neighborhoods is with occupied houses, which are not eligible under this grant,” Adkins told the Journal-News. “I fully understand the county’s and the land bank’s concerns in returning grant funds, but Middletown only had so many qualifying properties to work with.”

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