The housing crisis and the Great Recession that followed took a devastating financial and psychological toll on a generation of Ohioans. One of the most painful and lasting wounds of the economic disaster was the massive increase in foreclosures across our country – and few states were hit harder than Ohio.
To ensure that our communities have the resources they need to rebuild, I fought to invest in something called the Hardest Hit Fund, as part of the end-of-year budget deal Congress passed in December. And I’m proud to say that Ohio will receive up to $350 million from that investment.
Hardest Hit Funds help keep families in their homes and demolish abandoned buildings that are holding neighborhoods back.
When one home is foreclosed on or abandoned, it has a ripple effect that hurts the value of other homes in the neighborhood, attracts crime, and drags down the local economy. The Federal Reserve Board of Cleveland found that foreclosures and vacant or abandoned properties can reduce the sales price of a home by more than 7 percent. This creates a cycle that continues to drive down home values, making it more difficult for Ohioans to sell or refinance.
Removing these abandoned properties boosts the local economy and helps to make neighborhoods stronger and safer places to live and raise families.
Since 2010, Ohio has received more than $570 million in Hardest Hit Funds. That investment has helped 24,500 Ohioans, with the overwhelming majority able to remain in their homes. Under the new plan, Ohio will receive a direct infusion of $97.6 million right away, and we will have the opportunity to apply for up to $250 million more. The Treasury Department also extended the deadline for using program funds, giving local communities more flexibility to determine the best way to use this money to boost their economy and neighborhoods.
But too many communities are still suffering from the wreckage the housing crisis left behind, and this problem can’t be fixed overnight. A report from Policy Matters Ohio estimated that it would cost $750 million to demolish all the blighted and abandoned properties in Ohio. The latest Hardest Hit Fund is a big step in the right direction that helps pave the way for growth.
Several Ohio counties with established land banks have already used Hardest Hit Funds successfully, but more counties could also benefit – particularly those with small towns and rural communities. I encourage Ohio counties that have a land bank in place to apply for the program.
Since the housing crisis began, our local land banks and community groups have stepped in to stabilize communities facing widespread foreclosures and blight. The Hardest Hit Fund is critical to furthering their efforts. I will continue fighting to protect these funds that are so important to Ohio communities.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator from Ohio.