CLEVELAND - Cleveland leaders are concerned northeast Ohio, and the rest of the state, could lose out on 90M in federal demolition funds, due to a possible flaw in the state application for the money.
According to Cleveland leaders, and Bill Faith, Executive Director with The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, the buckeye state may only receive about 32% of the 250M it requested in federal Hardest Hit Funds.
Faith believes Ohio could lose out on some 90M in funding due to a potential error in the way the application for the money was filed by The Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
The potential loss of critical demolition dollars has Cleveland leaders like Councilman Michael Polensek, and Jay Westbrook, with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy extremely concerned.
Polensek explained about 100M is needed to take down dangerous, vacant homes in Cleveland alone.
“There are so many homes and buildings that need to come down in northeast Ohio, this money was really our only hope,” said Polensek.
“To hear that we could lose this amount of money, is incomprehensible to me, I can’t even comprehend that.”
Westbrook is hoping something can be done to get the U.S. Treasury Department to change its mind on Ohio’s application.
“If the Governor has to step in, the Governor should step in,” said Westbrook. “Because the taxpayers, citizens, deserve a better deal than this.”
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency responded to our story, explaining that it believes its application followed the proper federal guidelines, and that it will fight to get the decision changed, earning Ohio additional demolition funding.
The agency confirmed it was involved in two conference calls with the U.S. Treasury Department on April 20, to try and determine if more funding could be awarded to Ohio.
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency issued the following statement: >
“Although we respect the decision of the U.S. Department of Treasury regarding our application, we disagree with the assertion that we would not be able to spend the money requested for demolition in the timeframe required.
Our goal was to have a balanced approach between homeowner and the blight programs. With the original $570 million that Ohio was allocated, over $430 million has been disbursed through homeowner programs.
Pending treasury approval, we intend to commit an additional $25 million to homeowner programs and $143 million to blight, which will allow us to reinvigorate neighborhoods leading to stabilizing home values.”
Cleveland leaders said a decision on whether the U.S. Treasury Department could change its mind on Ohio’s demolition award could come in the coming days.