Demolition of blighted properties continues in Butler County

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Butler County Land Bank Makes Blight Disappear

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

About 100 homes in Hamilton and Middletown will be torn down this year, using federal Hardest Hit Funds.

With sounds of splintering wood, the house at 1003 Maple Ave. in Hamilton was torn to the ground earlier this month, razed by an excavator from S/R Industries Inc. of Fairfield.

The building, which was next to the intersection of Maple and East avenues, had been vacant and without utilities for some time, and had “dozens of unanswered health violations,” said Eugene “Bud” Scharf, Hamilton’s community development director.

It was one of about 100 homes in Hamilton and Middletown that will be torn down this year, using federal Hardest Hit Funds. The Butler County land bank, which had the building on Maple torn down, learned in July it would receive nearly $1.8 million more to eliminate such buildings that blight their neighborhoods.

Such demolitions can bring significant improvements to neighborhoods. The land bank has spent almost $7 million in federal, state and local funds to demolish about 600 unsightly buildings in the county's two largest cities, with plans to expand the program to other cities and townships with funding sources other than the federal Hardest Hit Funds, said Michael McNamara, who is president of the land bank and development administrator for Butler County.

The Maple Avenue property experienced a steady decline in its value, from $50,590 in 2005; to $31,850 in 2009; $25,230 in 2012; and $16,170 in 2014, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office.

The goal behind eliminating the blight, according to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, is to stabilize property values by removing vacant and blighted properties in targeted areas and to prevent future foreclosures by existing homeowners.

Coincidentally, the razed building was just two blocks from the site of a shooting Tuesday morning in the 800 block of Maple that left one person dead.

The county’s land bank, created in 2012, acts as a lead agency in receiving federal and state grants, McNamara said.

The land bank obtains properties through donation, from forfeited land lists, through foreclosures or by purchasing them, in which cases, the local governments provide the funds for acquisition. Once a property goes through the land bank, “that cleans the title, which for a troubled asset is a very powerful tool,” McNamara said.

After buildings are demolished, the land may be offered for sale to neighbors, unless there are other plans for it, such as building something else on the property.

This article contains previous reporting by staff writer Denise Callahan.

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