Blighted neighborhood funds In jeopardy

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)- Sen. Sherrod Brown says that $71 million dollars could be rescinded from Ohio programs that received money from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The Central Ohio Community Improvement Corporation has used $5.8 million of the money to help pay for the demolition of hundreds of homes. Overall, Ohio has received $570 million from the Hardest Hit Fund since 2010.

Melethia Hughes has lived her entire life in the Columbus Hilltop neighborhood. Over the past several months she has witnessed the demolition of four vacant and abandoned houses all within a stone’s throw of her home. It gives her hope for the future of her neighborhood.

Marvin Houston, who lives just a few blocks away, says there are several houses around him that should come down but are apparently tied up in bureaucratic red tape. “They’re using them for drug houses or who knows what’s going on,” Houston said. “They could snatch a child on this street and take them into one of these homes. I’ve got 11 kids. I don’t want to see it.”

Asked what lawmakers should choose to do with the money, highways or houses, Houston said, “What’s wrong with both?”

Melethia Hughes said the question of funding was “a good and a bad thing – I mean we need the highways right and we need these houses down.”

Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard says the demolition of a few bad properties can be a catalyst for a whole neighborhood. “Because you’ve eliminated some of the worst properties, all of a sudden its worth making an investment and the people who are in that neighborhood continue to make the investment in what they’ve got,” Leonard said.

Sen. Brown’s office say Hardest Hit funds have also benefited neighborhoods in Canton, Cleveland, Toledo, Loraine, Youngstown, Dayton and other Ohio cities.

“It’s critical that we pass a long-term transportation bill, but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of Ohio communities and families that are rebuilding from the housing crisis,” Brown said. “The Hardest Hit Fund has awarded $570 million to help Ohio communities to redevelop blighted neighborhoods by demolishing vacant properties and attracting new development. We should not rob this important resource to pay for another important priority.”

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